It takes a lot of brain power to code, and as the brain takes up about 20% of the body’s calories, it’s super important to eat the right foods to stay energised and healthy! The Coding Lab team has assembled the best list of brain foods that you can eat to keep those brain cells active – check them out below. 🧠💪

Image of Brain Food: Eggs

1. Eggs

A breakfast staple for many, eggs are a good source of several nutrients (like vitamin B6, vitamin B12 and choline) tied to brain health! 

The egg yolks in eggs are rich in choline, which is an important micronutrient needed by our bodies to help regulate mood and memory. The B vitamins that eggs contain also help to slow down the progression of mental decline, synthesise brain chemicals and regulate the sugar levels in the brain. 

If coding’s on your to-do list for the day, make sure to start it right – with a sunny side up!

2. Dark chocolate

Flavonoids present in the cocoa in dark chocolate are powerful antioxidants with anti-inflammatory and immune system benefits. Antioxidants are able to help prevent oxidative stress, which contributes to age-related cognitive decline as they damage cells in the body. In short, antioxidants often go hand-in-hand with anti-aging.

Dark chocolate is also known to contain less sugar than other types of chocolate, and with the presence of polyphenols – which help to improve insulin sensitivity – they help to control our blood sugar levels.

Now that you know the goodness dark chocolate brings, don’t forget to set aside a few bars for your next coding session! 

Image of Brain Food: Dark Chocolate
Image of Brain Food: Fatty Fish

3. Fatty Fish

Fatty fish is abundant in Omega-3. The Omega-3 fatty acids are capable of building cell membranes in the body, like those in the eyes and the brain. Thus, they are able to improve our vision as well as the structure of our brain cells – known as neurons – which are vital in transmitting information between the brain and the rest of the nervous system. 

Read: 5 Tips to Better Eye Health

Foods rich in Omega-3s are also great for improving concentration and cognitive functioning, hence further enhancing your ability to process and think when coding!

Try out this recipe: Lemon Dijon Baked Salmon and Potatoes

Credit: AverieCooks

Ingredients:
• 8 medium sized (or 900 to 1130 grams of) russet potatoes, halved or quartered into 1-inch pieces
• 5 tablespoons of olive oil, divided
• Kosher salt, to taste
• Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
• 57 grams unsalted butter, melted
• 2 to 3 tablespoons lemon juice
• 2 to 3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
• Four 170 grams skin on salmon fillets
• Fresh parsley (optional for garnishing)

Instructions:
1. Preheat your oven to ~220°C (425°F). Line a baking sheet with heavy-duty aluminium foil for easier cleanup and spray with cooking spray. Add the potatoes and evenly drizzle 3 to 4 tablespoons of olive oil. Evenly season with salt and pepper and toss with your hands to combine and evenly coat. Bake for 15 minutes or until potatoes are about 75% done.
2. While the potatoes are baking, in a small microwavable bowl, heat up the butter for about 45 seconds. Add the lemon juice, Dijon mustard, and stir to combine; set aside. 
3. Remove the baking sheet from the oven and flip the potatoes to ensure even cooking. Add the salmon-fillets skin-down, evenly drizzle with the remaining 2 to 3 tablespoons olive oil and nestle the potatoes around the salmon.
4. Evenly drizzle about two-thirds of the lemon butter Dijon mixture over the salmon fillets. Evenly drizzle the remaining one-third over the potatoes.
5. Evenly season the salmon with salt and pepper, to taste.
6. Bake for about 10 minutes, or until the salmon and potatoes are done. The salmon should flake easily and the potatoes should be fork-tender. 
7. Garnish with parsley (optional) and serve immediately. Recipe is best fresh but will keep airtight in the fridge for up to 5 days.

4. Berries

Berries are delicious to snack on and they’re full of fibre, vitamins and minerals. They’ll definitely give your brain a boost of energy – set a bowl of good berries next to you on your next coding session and you’re set for a productive time.

Some berries that you can easily get from your nearest market are:
✓ Strawberries
✓ Blueberries
✓ Raspberries
✓ Cranberries
✓ Grapes

Image of Brain Food: Berries
Image of Brain Food: Whole Grains

5. Whole grains

Whole grains are good sources of vitamin E which has powerful antioxidant properties. As a fat-soluble antioxidant, it’s able to cross the blood-brain barrier and protect fats from oxidation, hence reducing oxidative stress on the brain! 

Some examples of whole grains include:
✓ Brown rice
✓ Oatmeal
✓ Whole-wheat bread
✓ Whole-wheat pasta
✓ Whole-wheat crackers

Got a few ripe bananas sitting on your kitchen counter? Whip ’em up into a loaf of delicious banana bread!

Try out this recipe: Easy Banana Bread

Credit: SimplyRecipes

Ingredients:
• 2 to 3 ripe bananas, peeled (about 160 to 192 grams mashed)
• 76 grams unsalted butter, melted
• 1 large egg, beaten
• 150 grams sugar
• 1 teaspoon baking soda
• 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
• Pinch of salt
• 204 grams of all-purpose flour

Instructions:
1. Preheat your oven to 175°C (350°F), and butter a 4×8-inch loaf pan.
2. In a mixing bowl, mash the ripe bananas with a fork until completely smooth. Stir the melted butter into the mashed bananas.
3. Mix in the baking soda and salt. Stir in the sugar, beaten egg, and vanilla extract. Mix in the flour.
4. Pour the batter into your prepared loaf pan. Bake for 50 minutes to 1 hour at 175°C (350°F), or until a tester inserted into the centre comes out clean.
5. Remove from the oven and let cool for a few minutes. Afterwards, remove the banana bread from the pan and let cool completely before slicing and serving.

6. Vegetables

Eat up those greens! Although different vegetables exert their effects on the brain through different mechanisms, they share the common trend of having antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and cytoprotective properties. An example would be cruciferous vegetables like cabbage, cauliflower and brussels sprouts that contain compounds which can prevent oxidative damage and fight cancer cells!

Do you have trouble getting your kids to eat those greens? We’ve got a trick up our sleeves for you. Check out this amazing cauliflower rice recipe below!

Image of cauliflower
Try out this recipe: Cauliflower Rice (Super easy!)

Credit: MinimalistBaker

Ingredients:
• Pine cauliflower

Instructions:
1. Wash and thoroughly dry cauliflower, then remove all the greens.
2. You can choose to either use a box grater or a food processor! If using a box grater, cut the cauliflower into large chunks and use the medium-sized holes of the box grater to grate into ‘rice’. If using a food processor, cut into small pieces and use the grater attachment to grate the cauliflower into ‘rice’.
3. Transfer to a clean paper towel and press to remove any moisture (that can make your dish soggy!)
4. You can enjoy your cauliflower rice cooked or raw! You can cook your cauliflower rice by sautéing in a pan over medium heat with 1 tablespoon of oil. Cover with a lid to make the cauliflower stems more tender! Cook for a total of 5-8 minutes and season as desired.
5. You can use cauliflower rice in recipes that call for rice – like fried rice! You can store the leftovers in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. Uncooked cauliflower rice can be stored in the freezer for up to 1 month.

We hope that these foods will keep your minds sharp and more focused when coding! Make sure to include them in your shopping list for the next time you go to the market and don’t forget to share this with your friends and family! 😉


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In this exclusive interview with the founders of Coding Lab, Yong Ning Foo and Candice Wang share some insights on how Coding Lab coped with the Covid-19 pandemic and some words of encouragement for the Coding Lab community! 

During the Covid-19 pandemic, Coding Lab had to go through several changes, one of it being the transition to 100% online classes throughout the circuit breaker. The strong online learning system that we have built and tested (since 2019) enabled us to continue having fun and enjoyable classes for our students. 

Let’s hear from our dear founders as they shed light on how they managed Coding Lab during these extraordinary times. May we never be deterred from the challenges that lie ahead and keep on persevering to face them head-on! 


Image of Candice

Here’s what Candice had to say!

1. Hi Candice, how has Covid-19 changed things for you? Was it for the better, or for the worse?

Covid-19 is unprecedented and like the rest of the world, we had to adapt to it quickly.

Personally, I appreciate the time I got to spend with my family as well as managing the shift from offline to 100% online classes not only at Coding Lab, but also for my kids’ enrichment lessons. My 7-year-old attended our own online Coding Classes during this period, and was able to figure out how to use the different functions of Zoom. To my surprise, not only could she do that, but she was also able to confidently navigate her school’s Home-Based Learning exercises entirely on her own even though there were close to 8 different portals.

If anything, we shouldn’t underestimate kids.

They are more capable than we think they are. This is evident in the joy my daughter derived from changing her user ID or private messaging her teachers on Zoom and arranging online meet-ups with her friends. It is a lifelong skill that she can now take with her.

2. Everyone has had to work from home due to the circuit breaker. What has been done to maintain a strong company culture?

Communication via video-conferencing was fun and smooth – even across countries – so much so that we even organised our first 100% online Young Coders Global Hackathon together with Coding Lab Japan.

The Coding Lab team were all involved in this one way or another. If you look at the event credits, you will realise that not only the Educators, but also the Marketing, Admin and Enrolment teams all came together to make it happen. The teamwork was truly amazing!

We also organised a couple of group workout sessions so that everybody could stretch their legs and keep fit at home. We even recorded a song and dance together! Sure… we missed our regular lunches and snack time, and birthday celebrations had to be done via Zoom and home deliveries, but hey! It was the new norm and we embraced it wholeheartedly.

The most important thing was that everybody was safe.

3. What is your most valuable takeaway from this experience?

“When life throws you curveballs, we will emerge stronger and be thankful for the small things in life.”

Having the team stay healthy and protected at home while adapting our processes to ensure the safety of everyone involved was critical, and taught us a lot about adapting quickly.

We also found our own special ways to continually engage our students; whether it was via regular WhatsApp chats to follow-up with them or a competition where they could express their ideas on solving Covid-19 related issues, we stayed connected.


Image of Yong Ning

Here’s what Yong Ning shared with us!

1. Hi Yong Ning, how did you handle the challenges faced due to the Covid-19 restrictions?

We have been planning for this for quite some time, since January this year. It also helped that we had run online workshops for the region before, so the process was relatively smooth. 

2. What were the measures that Coding Lab had to take due to Covid-19?

The evolution of our processes started with Hybrid classes where we had a mixture of physical and online students (before circuit breaker), followed by 100% online (during circuit breaker), and now, a mixture again in Phase 2. 

Prior to that, we had invested in video-conferencing platforms, online practising systems, digital writing pads and other tools to make live teaching fun and easier for both our tutors and students.

“We spared no effort to build a strong and solid support system that provided our students with the avenue to give their feedback or review course material as often as they wanted.”

3. What are some of the significant changes that will be done to come back from this better and stronger?

Our online learning system was put to the test when we conducted thousands-strong seminars for the region for the Shopee Code League as well as various workshops with Smart Nation Singapore

We also understand that many parents and students enjoyed the classes very much and have requested for their child to continue their lessons online. We are excited and happy to announce that we will be launching Coding Lab Online (Permanent) classes*.

*for selected modules only

4. What is your most valuable takeaway from this experience?

“Be prepared, plan ahead, and have a strong team to support and execute decisions quickly. “

All of these are critical in ensuring that the experience of our students remains consistent and of a high standard. 

5. Do share with us a few words of advice/final message for the Coding Lab community!

Thank you for your support throughout this period. It means a lot to all of us. We hope you will enjoy using the materials and systems we have built and we look forward to welcoming you back, be it online or physically. Thank you!

Sarah will be starting her first year as a Computer Engineering student at the University of Texas at Austin (UT Austin) – which is ranked #18 globally for computer science subjects – on a 4-year scholarship! Read on to find out how she managed to achieve this incredible feat. 

Image of Sarah Go

From our previous interview with Sarah Go in 2018, we got to know about how she clinched the Honourable mention at the National Olympiad in Informatics (NOI) within just less than six months of learning how to code! Fuelled by her passion for coding, Sarah spent her winter holidays as a student tutor volunteer at Coding Lab to inspire the next generation of coders.


Q: Hey Sarah, it’s been a while since our last interview with you. Congratulations on getting a scholarship to UT Austin! What were your feelings when you first got to know about the scholarship?

Sarah: I was definitely very happy! Initially, I wasn’t expecting a scholarship because I was applying as an out-of-state student to UT’s Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) program. 90% of spots are reserved for in-state students, and UT’s ECE program is considered prestigious in the US. So even admission is very competitive – not to mention a scholarship! – and this knowledge makes me feel incredibly fortunate and grateful to my school as well. 

Q: What did you do to ensure that you stood out from the rest of the other applicants?

Sarah: There were many other qualified applicants, and even the admissions committee can’t specify what ensures an applicant will receive a scholarship.

I didn’t have to go for any interviews or submit any additional materials as I was automatically considered for a scholarship with my application to UT. I can say that I put a lot of effort into maintaining a good academic record and producing quality work in school, especially in my research projects.

And outside of school, my extracurricular activities – particularly my experience in Coding Lab, which I wrote about in my college essays, certainly contributed as well. 

Image of Sarah Go and student
Sarah as a student tutor volunteer explaining a concept to her student.

Q: What were the Coding Lab classes that you took and how have they brought you to where you are now?

Sarah: I took the Python Meets Mathematics course and honestly if I didn’t take that course I wouldn’t even have chosen ECE as my major! I went into Coding Lab as a total coding newbie and honestly was feeling quite ambivalent towards coding when I went to my first lesson.

I found the course material accessible and easy to understand, and I got to use the programming knowledge I learned in fun mathematical applications right from the start.

At the end of my first lesson, after just a couple of hours, I was so enthralled with coding that both my parents and I were surprised! But beyond the course material, what truly sparked my interest in coding was my teacher Mr. Yong. He’s an incredibly dedicated teacher, and his guidance and enthusiasm towards coding not only made me look forward to every lesson but, three years later, has ultimately motivated me to go into computing in college and maybe even as a career. 

Image of Sarah Go and her class
Sarah and her bright students!

Q: How do you plan on making the most out of your time, now that things have changed due to the Covid-19 pandemic?

Sarah: Well, like many other students around the world, I am pretty much stuck at home this summer due to Covid-19. Fortunately, there are so many readily available resources be it educational and recreational on the internet that I have hardly been bored! I’m reading ebook versions of classics that have always been on my reading list, and have also been self-studying Chinese. I have also stuck to my goal of learning at least one new computing-related thing every day, which has definitely helped keep me busy and productive. Today, for example, while doing some problems I encountered a neat algorithm called the Boyer-Moore Majority Vote Algorithm. While reading about the algorithm, I learned that it was a UT professor that co-invented it, which is super cool!

Q: What are you looking forward to the most when you start university?

Sarah: I really look forward to meeting other students at UT; not only ECE students who share the same interest in computers as me, but also other students in different majors, all of whom have very diverse cultures and backgrounds. I also look forward to meeting professors at UT, who have done amazing work in their fields! As for my classes, I’m quite excited about learning more about the hardware aspects of computing, because I’ve really immersed myself in programming these few years. I believe these aspects of my university experience will be a real eye-opener for me. 

Q: Any words of advice for budding programmers out there?

Sarah: My first advice to budding programmers is, honestly, to keep coding! That may sound kind of silly, but coding is one of those things where the best way to learn is by doing, or in this case, programming. Every time you learn something new, grab some problems or projects off the internet – or maybe think up something yourself – and create a program to try it out! I also think it’s good to keep challenging yourself. Sometimes, easy programming problems can be tempting, but you learn the most from hard problems – problems that seem complex and maybe even beyond your abilities.

By continually pushing your boundaries, you’ll expand your knowledge and eventually problems that you once found difficult will become doable.

And also – it’s completely fine to encounter difficulties and spend hours debugging a program. Just keep in mind that coding is a lifelong journey, and like a rollercoaster ride, while there may be ups and downs, it’s a lot of fun as well! 

With effect from 2 June, Primary and Secondary students who are in graduating cohorts will attend school daily while other cohorts will rotate weekly between Home-Based Learning and returning to school for lessons. 

With the circuit breaker stay-home measures for the past 1.5 months, your child will have learned to navigate 8 different websites, key in the zoom password effortlessly, and type his/her name confidently for all the HBL and online classes they attended! Indeed your newly minted digital native will still be putting these skills to good use as he/she shuttles between school and the demands of HBL. Here are some specially curated tips that we hope will aid you in making your child’s digital journey the best that it can be. 

Check them out below! 


1. Ensure good digital security habits

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the World Health Organisation (WHO), children aged 7 to 12 can have close to 2 hours of recreational screen time daily. With their daily Home-Based Learning demands, your child will definitely be logging in and out of multiple websites! Do reinforce the importance of digital security with him/her.

Enhance your digital security through simple cybersecurity steps such as regularly changing passwords, enabling two-factor authentication (it’s as simple as registering a phone number or installing an app) and keeping your software up to date.

Don’t forget to encourage your children to inform you if they come across anything suspicious online!


2. Differentiate between Good and Bad screen time

Parents must learn to differentiate between Good and Bad screen time so as to maximise their children’s learning and development. 

Good screen time refers to children producing content – which can be in the forms of working on their projects, schoolwork or even coding on Scratch! Bad screen time refers to children consuming content – like watching videos on YouTube and playing games that do not contribute to their development. 

As Michel Resnick (MIT Media Lab) says, “Rather than trying to minimize screen time, I think parents and teachers should try to maximize creative time.” So give some encouragement for your children to be productive and make the most out of the screen time that they have.

You can check out #ScratchAtHome for many fun learning activities that can be done with Scratch’s free coding environment! Your child can partake in the many coding projects they have on their page.


3. Proper sitting and typing posture

Not inculcating a proper seating and keyboard typing posture from young can lead to negative consequences in the long run – such as back pain and finger strains. 

For good sitting posture, make sure that your child rests his/her back against the chair for maximum support, with shoulders relaxed and eyes looking straight ahead towards the screen. Their feet should also be resting flat on the floor or on a footrest. 

For proper keyboard typing posture, the elbows should be in an open angle (90 – 110 degrees) so as to relax the forearms and shoulders. Keep the wrists straight, neither flexed upwards or downwards and resist resting them on the desk as this puts pressure on the tendons and cuts off blood circulation!

With our Basic Computer Skills course (Ages 6-8), students will not only learn how to type with the correct posture and method but also learn how to type efficiently and gain computer and web navigation skills! It’s the best start for your child’s digital journey.


4. Be Productive with Digital Technology

One of the ways in ensuring that your children’s time with digital devices remains productive is through engaging in its use together. For example, you can take online courses with them – which can lead to both educational achievement and productive bonding with your child!

Coding Lab’s Mother’s Day Workshop that was conducted earlier this May saw many mother-child pairs having a whale of a time while learning how to program everlasting flowers! So why not try one with your child too? (Psst, we have our Father’s Day Workshop coming up in June – be sure to check that out!)

If you’re unable to engage with digital devices together, you can always monitor their online activities with them close by – ensure that they use a shared family computer that is placed in a common area of your house!


5. Take Frequent Eye Breaks

Parents are a child’s first teachers and role models. With an increased screen time for your children, don’t forget to enforce regular eye breaks for them throughout the day to reduce blue light exposure. 

Here at Coding Lab, we recognise the importance of eye breaks to prevent digital eye strain – that’s why we make it compulsory for our students for every hour of coding! 

Well, that’s all from us! We hope that you benefit from these tips and while things may look glum now, know that every cloud has a silver lining. Stay safe and sound with your families at home and we hope to see you real soon!

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