Smart eating: Feed your MIND for back to school and beyond

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(BPT) - If you haven’t heard of the MIND Diet, consider it the greatest hits of foods that support brain health. The MIND (Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay) Diet combines powerful brain-supporting foods of two well-known eating plans, the Mediterranean and DASH diets. Conveniently, the same nutrients that help us focus and learn in the present also decrease age-related cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s Disease in the future. Now that we’re getting back to school and back to schedules, it’s a great time to focus on smart eating.

What foods are in the MIND Diet?

The MIND Diet is targeted nutrition that highlights specific foods that offer important brain-health benefits. Some foods on the MIND Diet list, such as fish, will be of no surprise to health enthusiasts. Registered dietitian Bianca Tamburello explains, “The connection between eating omega-3-rich fatty fish like salmon and brain health is well-documented." She recommends looking for fish that is particularly high in omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon from Chile, to maximize brain health.

Tamburello says following the MIND diet is uncomplicated. “Eat more of these 10 brain-boosting foods (green leafy vegetables, other vegetables, nuts, berries, beans, whole grains, fish, poultry, olive oil, and for adults, wine in moderation) and limit these five foods (red meats, butter and stick margarine, cheese, pastries and sweets, and fried or fast foods).”

5 quick family-friendly tips to follow the MIND Diet

  • Enjoy a power salad packed with leafy greens! The MIND Diet specifically calls out leafy greens as a top veggie and recommends eating a salad daily. Salads don’t have to be dull. Create a flavor-packed and filling salad by adding a ½ cup of quinoa or farro, berries or nuts for some added crunch.
  • Aim for 3 servings of whole grains per day. This could be whole wheat bread or pita, brown rice or even whole wheat pasta.
  • Plan for 2 fish meals per week. Fatty fish, like salmon, is packed with nutrition and quick to prepare. Tamburello says, “I recommend Chilean salmon because it's high in omega-3 fatty acids, low-mercury, and responsibly raised.” Chileansalmon.org is a great resource for nutrition tips, recipes and more info about Chilean salmon.
  • Go nuts! Enjoy nuts daily as a topper for oatmeal or as an easy snack.
  • Swap out butter for olive oil in your home cooking. Balance is key. The MIND Diet recommends using olive oil, a healthy unsaturated fat, as your main cooking oil, and limiting butter to 1 tablespoon or less per day.

Incorporating 10 foods into your day may seem overwhelming. Start small by incorporating 1-2 of your favorite MIND Diet foods daily and plan your meals and snacks so that you have MIND Diet foods stocked at home. Healthy shortcuts can go a long way, too! Leverage healthy convenience foods such as frozen fish filets for fast dinners, salad kits packed with leafy greens, and individually wrapped nut snack packs.

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