A healthy diet is an essential part of a well behaved child who can concentrate, is happy and has a balanced mood. The food that our children eat becomes the building blocks for all their mood-controlling brain chemicals. It can also influence your child’s behaviour depending on if it balances their blood sugar or causes blood sugar spikes.
Here are five dietary changes you can make to improve your child’s mood and behaviour:
• Avoid all additives and processed sugars.
The worst thing you can do for your child’s behaviour is to feed them high-carbohydrate foods. These include sugar, sweets, bread, pasta, breakfast cereals, cakes, biscuits, soft drinks and fruit juices. This will raise the blood sugar which blocks the brain cells responsible for memory, energy and alertness. The hormone insulin is then released which causes a sharp can drop in blood sugar that can leave children sleepy, grumpy, emotional and unable to focus.
Try to use complex carbohydrates like root vegetable, fruit, oats and brown rice.
Food additives like artificial colourings, sweeteners, preservatives and flavourings have also been linked to changes in behaviour and mood.
• Eat more fish
The brain is made up largely of fats and a lack of these in the diet can cause poor concentration and brain fog. Children specifically have a greater demand for omega-3 fatty acids from fish. Try to eat fish 3 times per week and make sure it is fresh and not tinned. If you can’t manage that then you should supplement your child’s diet with a fish oil capsule. You can also grind up seeds and add them to meals.
• Eat more protein
High quality protein and healthy fat are essential to balancing your child’s blood sugar. This is especially important at breakfast as it sets them up for a good day and ensures their body is producing the relevant brain chemicals to balance mood.
Some good protein foods are eggs, chicken, fish, turkey, beef, lamb and organic cheese (if no allergies exist).
• Eat more vegetables
Vegetables are a good way for your child to get the vitamins and minerals they need to create neurotransmitters. Having a higher fibre diet is also good for blood sugar control which helps to prevent tantrums or mood swings.
Use your imagination and hide green leafy vegetables in smoothies, soups and stews if you need to. Cover broccoli with some hummus to disguise it and cut raw vegetables into shapes to make it fun.
• Avoid food allergens
Common food allergens are wheat, gluten, dairy, eggs, tea, coffee, chocolate and soya. If you notice that none of the above suggestions have helped your child then try and remove the common allergens and keep notes on how their behaviour changes (it may take 2-4 weeks). You can also ask your doctor or nutritionist for food allergy tests.
Do not let yourself be held hostage by your child’s behaviour and food cravings. You are the parent/caregiver and now that you know which foods will help them you have the power to help them make changes. Once the results are visible, healthy eating will become second nature.