by Umm Zakariya
What to feed the kids is a decision that is the bane of every mother’s existence. Especially if you have more than one. Even when you have one.
Kids can be finicky. You may have one child who wants everything cheesy (cheesy pasta, cheesy sandwich, cheesy pizza, cheesy muffins, cheese on its own) and the other who turns green just at the sight of the yellow slab of milky goodness. It’s important that the kids eat well though, so every mom sets out to inspire and conspire, as she figures out covert ways of getting veggies and nutrients inside her little food critics.
We’re a Hifz family (you can read a bit about us here). Not only is it important for our kids to be well-nourished as every other child, our children require a little bit more in terms of brain boosting foods especially due to the monumental task they have undertaken.
There is enough research out there to help you choose foods that are great for boosting memory. But we wanted to go beyond that. We wanted to make sure that the children not only got food that is great for their body and mind, but also good for their soul. We looked into foods that have been recommended by Allah and our beloved Prophet Muhammad (sa). We found that ones that were chock-full of goodness for the memory centers of the brain and here’s the list we made:
MEMORY BOOSTING SUNNAH FOODS
1- Honey: Research tell us that honey has many antiseptic, antioxidant and immunity-boosting properties that work against cell damage and hence memory loss. Honey is especially beneficial if taken before going to sleep as it acts a fuel source for the brain and helps in preserving memory by preventing nocturnal fasting. It is narrated in Sahih Bukhari that the Prophet (sa) said, “Honey is a remedy for every illness and the Quran is a remedy for all illness of the mind, therefore I recommend to you both remedies, the Quran and honey.”
2- Olive Oil: A new study has revealed that people who eat more olive oil or nuts gain higher scores in tests of memory, attention span and abstract thinking. Another study revealed that olive oil improves visual memory and verbal fluency. These researches are recent but the benefits of the olive were proclaimed by Allah and His Prophet over 1400 years ago when Allah took an oath by the olive, “By the fig and the olive “ (95:1).
3- Figs: I’m sure you’ve heard of the amazing omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids which are indispensable to the proper functioning of the heart, brain and nervous system. Figs are a phenomenal source of these fatty acids and it is one of the five plants by which Allah swears in the Quran.
4- Pomegranate: Pomegranate juice when given to mice with Alzheimer’s disease performed mental tasks much better. Allah says in the Qur’an, “Wherein are fruit and palm trees and pomegranates. So which of the favours of your Lord will you deny?”(55:68-69)
5- Dates and Grapes: Dates are a fantastic source of fiber and this is extremely important for the brain. Our brain works on 100% sugar but it needs this sugar to be delivered steadily and in proper amounts. Fiber slows down sugar absorption and regulates its supply leading to enhanced memory function. And Allah says in the Quran “And from the fruits of date palm and grapes, you get wholesome drink and nutrition: Behold in this is a sign for those who are wise” (16:67).
6- Black Seed (kalonji): The Holy Prophet (sa) said: ‘Use the black seed because it has a relief of all diseases, but death.’ Need I say more?
SNEAKING THEM INTO THE KIDS
Knowing what is good for the kids, and actually getting them to eat it are two different things. Completely.
I cannot say what worked for me will work for you. I cannot say what worked for one kid worked for the other. I cannot say the ideas I am about to list down worked at all! But here’s to motherhood, and here’s to giving it our best!
1- Honey in the school water bottles, honey sandwiches, honey French toast, honey flavoured porridge, honey in the cereal, honey through a syringe (“let’s pretend I’m a doctor”), honey in cooking especially sweet and sour gravies are easy ways to get kids to eat honey. The best time to start giving honey to the kids is since they are small so that they are familiar with the taste. If you’ve missed the boat however, and your kids don’t like the taste, hiding honey inside other foods is your best bet!
2- Abdullah bin Umar (ra) narrates that the Messenger of Allah (sa) said:“Cook your food in olive oil and use its oil (on the body) for indeed it is from a blessed tree.” Olive oil can easily be used in your cooking, as dressing for salad, to make pizzas, hummus etc. If your children like olives on their own, use them in sandwiches and pastas. My little one like to snack on olives and cheese as a snack and that’s a great way to control hunger pangs till dinner time.
3- Dates, grapes, raisins and figs are great snacks to have around the house. Grapes and figs are seasonal and spoil very fast so using raisins (dried grapes) and dried figs is a great alternate. Imam al-Zuhree said: “Whoever wants to memorize hadeeth should eat raisins.” (From al-Jaami‘ by al-Khateeb, 2/394) The scholar Ibn al-Qayyim in his work “The Prophetic Medicine”, mentions raisins as being good for boosting memory. Dates, raisins and figs are great to add to cereals or to make granola. They are also great snacks to take in the car.
4- Making milk shakes with dates, resins and figs is also a great idea. Add a scoop of vanilla ice-cream to improve its ratings on the “accepted food” scale.
5- Fresh pomegranate and grape juice is also a great way to get some added nutrients to the diet.
6- Add kalonji (black seeds) to everything you cook. A sprinkle in the gravy, the pizza sauce, in the lasagna, in the Biryani is hardly noticeable and spreads the goodness to the entire family as they eat together.
Do not let all these be hidden ingredients only. Mention it to your kids (when the time is right!) so that they are conscious of the benefits that they are reaping from following the Sunnah!
May Allah guide us and our children and keep them connected to His Book and His deen! Ameen!
Umm Zakariya is a mother of four. Her eldest daughter is now a Hafiza, and her two sons have embarked on this phenomenal journey as well. The youngest baby aspires to be a hafiz as well, Alhamdulillah