Does your child struggle with energy, attitude and performance? Do they find themselves getting exhausted or deflated easily? Their behavior, disinterest and/or irritability could be the cause of unhealthy eating, nutrition and food patterns. Read on to learn more.
Diet and Mood
Have you noticed your child exhibiting a negative attitude or bad behaviors after consuming unhealthy foods? Perhaps you’ve noticed mood swings or a change in emotional patterns? While eating a poor quality diet high in junk food can lead to physical health problems (including but not limited to obesity, digestive issues, heart disease and stroke, type 2 diabetes, cancer, and early death), it can also have a major impact on mental health and illness such as depression and anxiety, and potentially on memory and intellect.
It’s important that children are taught the importance of consuming a variety of foods throughout the day, incorporating all food groups. Similarly, water and fiber are also important components of diet that are often overlooked.
Did you know…? Peer pressure often stimulates an adolescent’s food choices and preferences. That said, family has a critical role to play in inspiring and educating children to adapt a healthy lifestyle amidst their fast-paced and ever-changing lifestyles.
Make Healthy look Cool
Children can be picky with their eating, and thus often look for more popular choices to consume. To counter this issue, families should have regular conversations about healthy eating and the importance of a balanced diet. When kids are made aware of the outcome of consuming unhealthy foods, they will be able to make calculated food choices, especially when they are away (eg. at school, at sport, etc). This also happens to be the age when children are most involved in teamwork and building friendships. A healthy food conduct can help inspire other children in a given setting as well.
Teach them young
🍳 + Involve your child when cooking them dinner or fixing a snack.
Designate your child as the sous chef for the night assisting you through the meal preparation. Your child will get the chance to be more vocal about the foods that they like/dislike, so you can meal plan accordingly. Be creative with your meals when you can be by using color and variety.
🥙 + Diversify your meals
Instead of serving the same meals day after day, do your best to diversify them. Talk as a family about the types of food you’ve all had, seen, made, eaten and never had before. Task inspiration from YouTube or cooking books, or simply speak to your local green grocer or butcher to get some help.
🥦 + Take your kids to local produce shops to buy groceries
Healthy food is often better displayed at local grocery stores than it is at the larger chains, so this activity will help your child see and appreciate the brilliance of healthy foods.
🥕 + Add home gardening to your weekend activities if you can.
When kids will involve themselves in projects like growing vegetables and fruits, they will be excited to care for them, pick them and most importantly add them to their diet. During the process you can teach them the benefits of different fruits and vegetables to your body.
🚰 + Record your family’s water intake
Children often fall well short of drinking the recommended daily water intake, so it’s important to keep water consumption front of mind on behalf of your family. Communication and visualize this health requirement by making a tracking chart for your kitchen, where your kids can mark down each glass of water they drink and monitor their performance.
Regular and sufficient water intake helps both physical and mental health, and is said to help contribute to positive moods, better attention and heightened energy. Water is vital for regulating the nutrients in the body and vital for a healthy mind.
Good Nutrition for Your Brain
It’s important that young people are taught, learn and practice good nutritional choices, because the culmination of those choices evidently makes a major impact on their health and lifestyle in later years.
A number of studies report a direct relationship between consumption of high sugar and processed foods to behavioral problems in children. Some studies suggest that the consumption of such foods lead to stunted development in the parts of brain that are responsible for learning and memory.
Francisco J Rosales, in his article ‘Understanding the role of nutrition in the brain and behavioral development of toddlers and preschool children: identifying and addressing methodological barriers’ outlines how poor food choices cause adverse effects to a child’s overall personality.
Looking for a few family nutrition and meal-planning tips? Here’s a list of actions to incorporate in your family and child’s diet:
• Dark green leafy salads and vegetables are a must! They are a great source of iron and essential for healthy brains.
• Nuts, seeds and legumes are also great for brain development.
• Servings of fruits and vegetables.
• Steer away from (or worst case limit) processed foods and snacks like chocolate, potato chips and candy. It’s becoming harder and harder to avoid confronting these items (at the shops, in the gas station, etc), but they are the dark side of nutrition and deliver nothing outside a quick fix of satisfaction.
• Coordinate your proportions of milk. As important as it is, many studies now suggest we limit children to no more than three servings of milk during the day to avoid hindering iron absorption.
• Portion size control! Yes, even with kids.
• Eat as a family without distractions. Turn the TV off and put your phones, tablets and computers away. Enjoy your time together, enjoy experiencing the tastes and textures of your food, and enjoy some healthy conversations about your foods.