Believe it or not, fat makes up a whopping 60 percent of the brain’s weight. It also enhances communication from cell to cell, which enables your toddler to to think, walk, talk—and do everything else she does.
Because the body is not able to make all of these essential fatty acids itself, the brain relies on fats from oily fish and other healthy food sources to provide these super-vital brain nutrients. “The omega-3 fats in fish are the most important for children’s brain development,” says Sears, whose recently-published The Omega-3 Effect explains the link between dietary fats and brain growth, learning, behavior and ability to pay attention.
The best fish sources of omega-3 fats are salmon, tuna, sardines, anchovies, trout and other oily fish. (For a kid-friendly, omega-3 fat-rich lunch, try our recipe for Green Monster Tuna Salad Roll-Ups.) Your child’s developing brain also benefits from plant sources of healthy fats: canola, olive and other healthy oils; avocado; flax seeds; and nut butters (such as walnut and almond). “These plant fats help provide better blood flow to your child’s brain,” explains Sarah B. Krieger, MPH, RD, a pediatric dietician at All Children’s Hospital in St Petersburg, Fla., and a national media spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.