Food is fuel for your kids’ brains! The foods kids eat – and the nutrients in the food – are important to your kids’ cognitive skills and brain development. Consider this:

Brain Food - Good Nutrition & Brain Function

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  • Kids need a high level of fat in their diets–some 50% of their total calories–until about two years of age.

  • Protein and zinc contribute to the development of long-term memory and learning skills.

  • Iodine produces thyroid hormones which are vital for brain development and neurological processes.

  • Iron is critical for maintaining an adequate number of oxygen-carrying red blood cells, which are necessary to fuel brain growth, including development of the hippocampus, which is responsible for learning and memory.

Without the right nutrients, kids’ memory, attention, processing speed, the ability to control impulses and mood, academic ability later in life, and even the ability to multitask or plan can decrease!

These are the nutrients that are necessary for healthy brain development.
  • Choline
  • Folate
  • Iodine
  • Iron
  • Long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids, such as omega-3 fatty acids
  • Protein
  • Vitamins A, D, B6, and B12
  • Zinc
Where can your kids get all of these great things?

There is no one food or “superfood” that can ensure optimal brain development, but some foods are packed with a variety of necessary nutrients.


Brain-boosting nutrients in eggs include choline (which can improve cognitive functioning), vitamin B12, and protein.


Oily fish and other seafood provide protein, zinc, iron, choline, iodine and omega-3 fats. Opt for low-mercury options such as shrimp, salmon, tilapia, crab, or cod.


Leafy greens such as spinach and kale are a great source of iron and folate (which boosts cognition).


Lean meats are a source of zinc and iron. Black bean or soy burgers are great iron-containing meat substitutes.


Unsweetened yogurt contains protein, zinc, choline, and iodine. Full-fat Greek yogurt has more protein and impacts communication between brain cells, which promotes their ability to send and receive information.


Food such as nuts, seeds, and nut butters are protein- and zinc-packed. Both contribute to memory and cognitive development.


Beans offer zinc, protein, iron, folate, and choline. Some, such as kidney, pinto, and soybeans, also contain high amounts of omega-3 fatty acids. Beans are an excellent substitute for meat.