Nourish Your Noggin with These 5 Brain Foods

The human brain is one of our most powerful and valuable organs. Though it accounts for only 2% of our body’s total weight, the brain requires a lot of energy and several key nutrients to function at its best. Last month, I had the opportunity to talk about nutrition for brain health on Local Memphis Live, and of course, I didn’t want you to miss out, so here are 5 brain-boosting foods to help you ensure your noggin stays nourished…

berries, brain food, antioxidantsBerries

Berries contain flavonoids, a specific group of potent antioxidants that give berries their beautiful colors. They also play a role in numerous cognitive skills like learning and decision making all while protecting brain cells from oxidative damage.

Incorporating berries into yogurt, oatmeal, or salads not only adds fresh, natural sweetness. Berries also contain antioxidants that help boost cognition, coordination, and memory.

Think you can only get a brain boost from berries during summer months? Think again…You can get your berry fix year round! Buy them fresh in the summer, frozen in the winter.

Eggs Brain Food

Eggs

If you’ve been avoiding eggs out of concern for the cholesterol and/or fat content, it’s time to add them back in. Research is now suggesting that eggs do not contribute to cardiovascular disease risk. In fact, our brains need cholesterol and fat to function at their best. With the brain being our fattiest organ, made up of 65% fat, including 25% of our body’s total cholesterol, you can be confident eggs are an egg-cellent choice and nutritional powerhouses.

Eggs contain choline, one of the superstar brain nutrients that many Americans are deficient in. Choline is necessary to produce acetylcholine, which plays a critical role in memory. For example, studies have linked acetylcholine deficiencies to memory loss and Alzheimer’s.

Eggs also contain B vitamins, folate, and vitamin D…nutrients that play a crucial role in brain health.

Tempted to ditch the yolk? Don’t do it! Eat the whole egg as the yolk contains most of the nutrients your brain needs. Plus, the protein and fat is likely to keep you satisfied much longer than that morning bagel alone!

Salmon, Brain Food

Salmon

When you’re researching (or googling) “what to eat for brain health,” you’ll begin to notice that DHA or omega-3 fatty acid is one of the single most important elements required for optimal brain health. With the brain being made mostly of fat, our brains need those Omega-3’s!

Omega-3s are strongly anti-inflammatory which is great news as inflammation has been linked to multiple mental health concerns. For example, increased Omega-3 intake may help to alleviate a spectrum of mental health concerns, from anxiety and irritability to depression and even schizophrenia. In contrast, insufficient DHA is a potential factor in depression, bipolar disorder, premature brain aging, age-related cognitive decline, brain shrinkage, dementia, and Alzheimer’s.

Omega-3 fatty acids containing DHA can be found in oily fish like wild Alaskan salmon, mackerel, and tuna. These types of fish are also excellent sources of protein which is needed to form mood-boosting neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine as well as B12, an essential vitamin for a healthy brain and nervous system. It’s ideal to include these types of fish twice per week.

Walnut, Brain Food

Walnuts

Well, if you hadn’t noticed yet, the low-fat diet trend has officially been a “big fat failure,” especially when it comes to brain health. So many “brain foods” are loaded with healthy fats, and walnuts are no exception…plus, they look like little brains!

Walnuts contain a number of compounds that protect our neurons from injury or degeneration, including vitamin E, folate, melatonin, omega-3 fats, and antioxidants. Bottom line: Research shows walnut consumption may support brain health.

Snack on walnuts, sprinkle them into your oatmeal, or even try out one of my favorite recipes: Walnut & Rosemary Oven Fried Chicken.

Steak, Vitamin B12, Brain Food

Beef

That’s right…BEEF is a brain food! Meat eaters can get a brain boost from beef, which provides plenty of energizing and balancing B vitamins, specifically B12 which is only found in animal foods.

Low B12 levels have been linked to Alzheimer’s disease and age-related memory loss. If your levels are lower than they should be, you may also experience symptoms like poor memory, depression and fatigue, so fire up the grill and enjoy this nutritious and delicious meat!


I recently came across a quote that said, “Essentially, fats build your brain, and proteins unite it. Carbohydrates fuel your brain, and micronutrients defend it.” Even though this post highlights only 5 specific foods, it’s clear that there are many more that give our brains a boost, so So if you want to keep your mind nourished and healthy, getting a variety and balance of nutrients is a no-brainer!

What’s your favorite brain food and how do you incorporate it into your meals or snacks?

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How do you “eat an elephant”, enjoy a burger, and achieve a healthy lifestyle?

National Nutrition Month, How to Eat an elephant, enjoy a burger, and achieve a healthy lifestyle Imagine looking at a juicy hamburger that is piled high with cheese, avocado, veggies, and all the fixin’s. While thinking about how delicious the burger looks, you approach it with one major reservation and ask yourself the tough question: “How in the world am I going to wrap my mouth around that first bite?” You may have a similar feeling when it comes to achieving a healthy lifestyle.

March is National Nutrition Month. I wrote an article last year for Good Health magazine to support the 2015 theme: “Bite into a Healthy Lifestyle.” I thought I would repost the article here although this year’s theme is “Savor the flavor of eating right.”

When it comes to nutrition, it is difficult to know how to begin the journey toward healthier eating habits and it’s easy to “miss the forest for the trees” as the proverbial saying goes, especially when we are overwhelmed with mixed or distorted messages about nutrition and overall health.

You wouldn’t give up your hopes of eating that delicious burger just because it seemed too big, would you? Don’t give up on a healthier lifestyle either! While it’s easy to get bogged down wondering about all the details, take a step back and focus on the big picture in order to determine what’s most important and where to set your first goals when it comes to nutrition.

Focus on real food.

Memphis Nutrition Group defines real food as “anything that can be grown or killed.” You can’t get much more straightforward than that definition!  (Thanks, Leslie Schilling!) Are you eating primarily real food or processed food products? Sometimes a healthy lifestyle can be as simple as getting back to the basics when it comes to food selection.

Find a balance.

A healthy lifestyle does not mean thinking in terms of absolutes: all or nothing, good or bad, and “should” or “shouldn’t.” Rather than only having two options, there are many more choices that fall somewhere within the spectrum and provide balance. Finding balance means choosing nutrient-rich, real foods most of the time and sometimes selecting and savoring foods you enjoy regardless of nutrient quality too.

Foster progress, not perfection.

How do you define progress? Progress toward a healthy lifestyle is not always related to the number of pounds lost or the amount of willpower exhibited. No one’s diet or lifestyle will ever be perfect, so try not to judge or be too hard on yourself.

Remember: Habits take time to form and sometimes even longer to break; therefore, the journey to a healthy lifestyle requires patience and acceptance of where you are in the process. How do you “eat an elephant”, enjoy a burger, or achieve a healthy lifestyle? Take one bite at a time, setting realistic goals in order to yield satisfying, lasting results in the end.


 

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How to Make SMART New Year’s Resolutions

How to Make Smart, Realistic New Year's Resolutions

There’s good news and bad news related to New Year’s resolutions…

The bad news: A Journal of Clinical Psychology study reported that 54% of people give up on their resolutions within 6 months, and only 8% of people achieve their New Year’s resolution by the end of the year.

The good news (if you’re still reading…): Another study published in the same journal stated that people who-despite the statistics-make resolutions are 10 times more likely to change their behavior than those who don’t make resolutions at all.

It seems many people have a love-hate relationship with New Year’s resolutions, and in my professional opinion, I can see how certain types of resolutions can backfire…especially those centered around strict rules and all-or-nothing thinking.

On the bright side, New Year’s resolutions can be made in a “SMART” way, so based on the research…I’ll go out on a limb and say:  Don’t stop making New Year’s resolutions!

Author Terry Felber sums up a common problem associated with New Year’s resolutions in one sentence:

“If you don’t know where you’re going, you’re not going to like where you end up.”

The absence of a clear plan for how to follow through with New Year’s resolutions ultimately leads to a feeling of failure days, weeks, or months after the new year. Although many people have an end result (the resolution itself), in mind, they don’t have a plan for how to get there, so…

How do you make a resolution that leads you toward your desired destination and defies the statistics?

  • Avoid diet resolutions and those that focus on a number on the scale. Since 95% of dieters regain their lost weight within 1-5 years, choose to shift your focus to resolutions that lead to long-term health instead.
  • First, decide where you want to end up. For example, many of my clients want to learn to “Eat healthier.” Notice how vague this is? From here, begin formulating a plan. I’ll help you with this…just keep reading…
  • Since eating healthier encompasses numerous actions, choose ONE behavior you’d like to change. If one behavior doesn’t seem like enough, remember this:

“Little by little, a little becomes a lot.” -Tanzanian Proverb

  • Consider the following as you plan a “SMART” resolution:

SPECIFIC (Who, What, Where, When, Why?): Get specific about which behavior you’ll work on changing first. For example, “I will eat more balanced, home-cooked dinners each week to support my goal of eating healthier.”

MEASURABLE (How will you know you’ve accomplished your resolution?): Decide the number of dinners you’d like to eat at home per week. For example, “I will eat dinner at home 4 nights per week.”

ATTAINABLE (What are the steps to reaching your goal?): What will it take to serve a home-cooked dinner 4 nights per week? You’ll likely need to schedule time to plan meals, repurpose leftovers, make regular grocery store trips, and cook dinner. Having a plan is key!

REALISTIC (How motivated are you? What are the obstacles and how will you overcome them to stay on the path to reaching your goal?): Do you hate planning meals? Sign up for an online service like YourSupperSolution.com to get weekly nutritious dinner menus and recipes delivered to your inbox.

TANGIBLE (How will you experience your resolution or know you’ve reached your goal?): You will be cooking and eating dinner at home more often.

With any resolution, no matter how “SMART” it may be, it is normal to experience obstacles. Rather than giving up or criticizing yourself, remember that habits develop over time and will take time to change. It is unreasonable and unrealistic to expect a behavior to disappear or change just because the clock strikes midnight and a new year begins. Use each obstacle as a learning experience and an opportunity to re-evaluate and perhaps modify your plan. It may not be realistic to get 4 home-cooked dinner meals on the table 52 weeks out of the year, and THAT’S OK! Don’t let discouragement related to statistics or previous failures rob you of achieving your resolution to care for yourself in a healthy way this year.

Oh…and don’t forget: You can make a resolution any time of year, not just January 1st!


I’d love to hear about your SMART resolutions for the year…send me an e-mail or share in the comments below. If you know someone who may need some encouragement or guidance in goal-setting, share this post or this clip from http://eplayer.clipsyndicate.com/embed/iframe?pf_id=1&show_title=0&va_id=6154181&windows=1“>ABC 24’s Local Memphis Live with them!

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Top 5 Tricks to Help Your Kids Manage Halloween Treats

Registered Dietitian Blair Mize's Top 5 Tricks for Helping Kids Manage Halloween Candy and Treats

Do you find the gobs of goodies that accumulate at Halloween a bit scary? You’re not alone! Check out my Top 5 Tricks for helping your kids manage their Halloween treats below:

Trick #1

One instance when it’s good for kids to be picky…

Don't be scared when your kids bring home piles of Halloween candy. Have them pick their favorites, and repurpose the leftovers.


Trick #2:

Halloween Tip by Blair Mize, RD: Eat a balanced dinner before trick-or-treating. Plan a potluck with neighbors or friends.


Trick #3:

Helping your kids enjoy Halloween treats starts today with having a conversation and modeling a healthy, non-diet approach to food for your kids.

Halloween Tip by Blair Mize, RD: Teach your children how to manage candy and sweets. Sweets can be enjoyed and planned into meals.


Trick #4:

Don’t be scared of this one…

Halloween Tip by Blair Mize, RD: Deprivation often leads to overeating. Here's a strategy to prevent feelings of deprivation.

Check out Ellyn Satter’s Book, Your Child’s Weight: Helping Without Harming for more information about raising your children to have a healthy relationship with food.


Trick #5:

If this sounds crazy, take a look at this website for a more detailed explanation:

Halloween Tip by Blair Mize, RD: Have a plan to help your kids manage their candy.

Happy Halloween! 

I’d love to hear how you manage Halloween treats at your house in the comments below!


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Football Fans (or not): It’s time to talk tailgating…

Football season is here, and I’ve got the tailgating tips that will help you score the winning touchdown when it comes to fueling well on game day… Football season is here, and I’ve got the tailgating tips that will help you score the winning touchdown when it comes to fueling well on game day…I posted these each Saturday on Facebook last year but thought compiling them in a blog post could be helpful, too.

So…I have one question to ask: ARE YOU READY? [insert Hotty Toddy chant here :)]


Would you expect a football player to wait until right before kickoff to fuel up with a pre-game meal? Should your children “save up” by not eating leading up to a party later in the day? Hopefully, your answer is “NO!”

So why do we do this to ourselves sometimes?

Rather than skipping or skimping on meals leading up to your game day get-together, fuel up with a balanced breakfast (and lunch if kickoff is later) to prevent eating more than your body needs when game-time finally arrives.


Football teams and their fans wear their signature colors on game day, but sometimes our tailgate spreads are neutral colors only…or varying shades of brown. Be the one to bring the color…Asian slaw, succotash salad, or a veggie dish that won’t get soggy over time. Fruit kabobs with a yogurt dip could be a tasty addition, too! Your fellow fans will thank you for adding a festive pop of color to their plates!


A memorable day of tailgating is about much more than the food. Take time to socialize, play corn hole, or watch the Walk of Champions (if you’re an Ole Miss fan like me!). What’s your favorite non-food tailgating activity?


During ‪football games, time-outs are called at strategically important moments. As you’re eating meals, take a “time-out” to check in with yourself…are you still hungry, comfortably satisfied, or stuffed? Use your time-out to reevaluate your “strategy” and to prevent eating more than your body needs. Continue eating if you’re still feeling hungry or not quite satisfied, or move on to more socializing and cheering for your team if you’ve had enough.


Each football player’s position demands different skills and sizes. A running back who needs speed and endurance shouldn’t be compared to an offensive lineman who needs size and strength to perform well in the game. No one position is better than the other!

In the same way, no one body shape or size is better than another….so why do we compare and judge ourselves against others? Focus instead on fueling with foods you enjoy when you’re physically hungry and stopping when you feel satisfied (rather than relying on what someone else may think). Don’t let comparisons to others interfere with your tailgating (or any) fun!


Your plate is your playbook!

Winning ‪football teams study visual representations of all their plays. Serving yourself a plate (rather than grazing) provides a visual representation of the amount you’re eating and could help you ‪eat more mindfully amidst gameday distractions.

Remember: A plate (playbook) + honoring natural ‪hunger and satisfaction cues (skill) = A ‪winning strategy!


During a ‪football game, it is each team’s job to keep members of the opposing team out of the endzone. At your ‪tailgate, it’s your job to keep foods out of the Temperature Danger Zone (40-140 degrees F) where bacteria thrive or “score.” The strategy: Keep cold foods cold & on ice. Eat hot foods within 2 hours or keep hot in chafing dishes. Making sure the ‪food you serve to friends is safe is key to a winning tailgate.


Hosting a tailgate with ‪friends? Keep your fellow fans energized by sending them to the ‪game with a to-go bag of trail mix (‪nuts, dried ‪fruit, and a little dark ‪chocolate). This party favor will come in handy when hunger strikes during the big game (not to mention they won’t miss any important plays while standing in the concession stand line)!


Happy Tailgating! 

Easy to Make, Exciting to Eat School Lunches

For many families, “Back to School” means back to packing lunches. Though parents have had a summer-long vacation from sorting through the Tupperware containers to find matching tops, and kids have had a break from that same ole turkey sandwich and chips, the idea of packing lunches (and eating them) still leaves much to be desired.

This morning on ABC’s Local Memphis Live, I shared some of my favorite tips for serving up creative, nourishing lunches that are easy to make and exciting to eat. The best part: Though I might pack these lunches for my little boy, you don’t have to be a pro to make lunches children will love! Here’s a clip of the Local Memphis Live segment (and a recap below) in case you missed it…

I packed up all of these lunches in Easy Lunchboxes…order some here and save yourself the nightmare of sorting through tons of tiny plastic containers…with the 3 compartment, single-lid lunchbox, packing lunches is that much faster (who doesn’t love that?)!

Peanut Butter & Banana “Sushi” Served with Greek Yogurt and Raw Veggies

Peanut Butter & Banana

For the “sushi,” take a whole wheat tortilla and spread a couple of tablespoons of peanut butter* over the entire tortilla. Place a whole, peeled banana close to the edge of the tortilla and roll. [Sidenote: This would be such an easy way to get your children involved in packing their own lunches!] Once the banana is all wrapped up, use a serrated knife to slice into 1 – 1.5 inch pieces.

*Many children (including my son) have peanut allergies, and schools are not allowing peanuts or peanut butter in school lunches. If this is the case for your child, no problem! Sunbutter made from sunflower seeds is a nice alternative…it’s still creamy and delicious like peanut butter…no Epipen needed!

Caprese Skewers Served with Sliced Apples and a Hardboiled Egg

Caprese Skewers

To make the caprese skewers, roll up a slice of turkey and cut it into bite-sized pieces. On a 6-inch skewer*, place a small ball of fresh mozzarella, 1 basil leaf, 1 grape or cherry tomato, and 1 piece of the turkey. Repeat if you have room.

*Worried about sending your little one to school with a sharp, pointy object? Me too. Instead of using wooden skewers, try cocktail stirrers (which come in a variety of bright, glittery colors kids will love), skinny straws, or small popsicle sticks.

Greek Pita Pockets with Orange Slices and Cashews/Dark Chocolate Trail Mix

Greek Pita Pockets

These Greek pita pockets provide a way to use leftovers in a way that tastes new and different. Take a whole wheat pita pocket and spread hummus all over the inside of the pocket. Next, sprinkle the inside with feta cheese. Add a few cucumber slices, shredded carrots, or raw veggies of your child’s choice along with bite-sized pieces of last night’s chicken, pork, or beef. Better yet, go ahead and pack this lunch before you clean up dinner so it’s ready to go for the next morning.

Bonus Tip!

Do you have leftovers that wouldn’t be appetizing in a pita but would be excellent simply rewarmed? Did you know thermoses are good for more than just soups and hot chocolate? I didn’t either until recently! Here’s what you’ll need to do:

  • Take a small thermos and fill it up with hot water for about 5 minutes while you’re making your breakfast.
  • Then, heat up the leftovers you need for lunch that day until they are piping hot.
  • Pour the water out of the thermos, add your leftovers, and screw the top back on tightly.
  • When lunchtime comes, no microwave needed…just a fork or spoon!

Remember: You don’t have to be a pro to pack an awesome lunch…Guess what? You also don’t have to be a child to enjoy one of these balanced and “non-boring” lunches. Go ahead and get 2 of those Easy Lunchboxes out of the cabinet! One for your little one, and one for you! Enjoy!

Back To School Lunches

Feed Your Family (Without Becoming a Short-Order Cook!)

design-3

Sally: I’d like the chef salad please with the oil and vinegar on the side and the apple pie a la mode…

Waitress: Chef and apple a la mode.

Sally: …but I’d like the pie heated, and I don’t want the ice cream on top. I want it on the side, and I’d like strawberry instead of vanilla if you have it. If not, then no ice cream, just whipped cream, but only if it’s real. If it’s out of a can, then nothing.

Waitress: Not even the pie?

Sally: No, just the pie, but then not heated.

Waitress: Uh huh.


Some of you may remember the above scene from the 1989 movie When Harry Met Sally. Perhaps you could substitute your child’s name for Sally’s and your name for the waitress’s. Is pleasing your family at meals or getting everyone to eat the same thing a daily struggle? Now that your family is getting back into a new groove with the new school year, perhaps it’s time to incorporate some new strategies at your family meals…

Internationally recognized Registered Dietitian and Family Therapist Ellyn Satter developed the Division of Responsibility in Feeding also known as the gold standard for feeding children. She outlines the concept in her book How To Get Your Kid To Eat…But Not Too Much: “Parents are responsible for what is presented to eat and the manner in which it is presented. Children are responsible for how much and even whether they eat.”

How do you apply the Division of Responsibility in your home?

1. Choose a time to plan the next week’s meals, allowing your children to give their requests or preferences. As you plan, ask yourself these 2 questions:

  • Have I included a “safe food,” one I know my child will accept, at each meal?
  • Am I choosing a variety of foods at each meal?

Once your plan is complete, consider posting the menu somewhere in your home so everyone will know the answer to that ever-important question: “What’s for dinner?”

2. Serve meals and snacks at the table with minimal distractions at consistent times throughout the day.

3. Allow your child to choose from the foods you are offering.

Don’t make substitutions an option. By including a “safe food” at each meal, you are ensuring your child will not go hungry. By providing regular meals and snacks, you are guaranteeing an opportunity for your child to “make up for” those times he or she eats less at a particular meal.

4. Make mealtimes pleasant, and avoid pressuring your child to eat.

Remember: Children are responsible for whether and how much they choose to eat. Enjoy this built-in opportunity to model healthy eating for your child by eating a balanced meal when you are hungry and stopping when you are satisfied. Brigid Kay, Registered Dietitian at Schilling Nutrition Therapy encourages her three children to try “one bite to be polite.” It may take 15-20 bites over time for a child to accept a food, so continue offering a variety of foods at meals whether your child enjoys them or not.


Feeding your family doesn’t have to mean being a short-order cook. Planning meals may take a little time on the front end, but imagine the fun and peace that could come from implementing the Division of Responsibility in your home starting this school year!

A link to this article may also be found in the April 2015 Edition of Good Health Magazine.

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