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5 Latin Foods That Can Boost Your Child’s Brain Power

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There are kids who love nutritious foods like vegetables and fish, but none of them live at my house. My pediatrician keeps reminding me that my 3-year-old’s picky eating is temporary — but that I probably need to get more creative with the way I serve up his meals. Noted!  To help bring out my niño’s inner little Einstein while also helping him appreciate traditional Latin foods, I’ve started to have more fun in the cocina (who knew cutting foods into fun shapes would get my kid to eat avocados?!) with these brain-boosting foods.

1. Bacalao 

This salty cod fish delivers a dose of omega-3 fatty acids, which plays a crucial role in brain function! p.s. The American Heart Association recommends consuming fish at least twice a week to get the benefits provided by these essential fatty acids.

Why your niños will love it: You can serve bacalao on sandwiches cut into fun shapes!

How to: Because bacalao is a salty fish, you’ll need to soak it in about two quarts of water, changing the water two to three times over several hours. Drain and pull the fish apart until it is in small chunks then add to a large frying pan and layer the following: olive oil, onions, roasted red peppers, chopped tomatoes, tomato paste, and capers. Cook over medium heat for about 10 minutes. Place the cooked bacalao on bread and cut into bite-sized squares.

2. Avocado

Aguacates are a great source of monounsaturated fats, which help increase blood flow to the brain. Vitamin E, which is also found in avocados, protects your kid’s body and the brain from free radical damage, making it a great brain food!

Why your niños will love it: Avocado drizzled with a generous helping of honey on toast = Yum! 

How to: Cut a slice of toasted whole-wheat bread in half diagonally, then cut the avocado in thin slices and fan them over the toast. Sprinkle a tiny bit of salt and pepper and a swirl of honey. Done!

3. Papaya

This fruit is packed with nutrients and vitamins, including omega-3s, which are essential for brain health. It’s also delicious, which makes this fruta a fave for tots.

Why your niños will love it: Bring on the batida! A papaya smoothie is a smart sip for kids that’s also cooling and refreshing — perfect for summer!

How to: Blend papaya and one other fruit your kid loves (like bananas or strawberries), milk, and ice until smooth and creamy.

4. Brazil nuts

Go nuts for this memory-enhancing snack! Bonus: The magnesium found in these nuts also improves mood, which equals a happy kid. What mama doesn’t want that?

Why your niños will love it: Kids love peanut butter and they won’t know the difference when you spread Brazil Nut Butter instead.

How to: Spread the butter on toast, crackers, or as a dip for bananas or celery.

5. Pinto beans

Say si to arroz y frijoles, a staple dish in the Latin culture. The energy from protein and complex carbohydrates, plus fiber, vitamins, and minerals, will help keep your kids thinking on point; Kidney and pinto beans, in particular, are especially high in omega-3 fatty acids, making them mental must-haves in any pantry.

Why your niños will love it: Ok, so some kids may not be into the idea of a plate of arroz y frijoles but stick those beans in a cheesy (i.e. tasty!) quesadilla and you’ve got yourself an instant kid pleaser.

How to: Sprinkle a generous amount of Monterrey Jack cheese between two tortillas, add chopped tomatoes, cooked chicken, and pinto beans, then heat oil in a nonstick skillet. Using medium heat, place the quesadilla in the skillet and let the tortillas toast and the cheese melt. Cut into small wedges and serve. So easy!

Photo: Getty