3 ways food can influence a child's health and behaviour
Food choices have a huge impact on our children's health
As a naturopath and a mother of 3 children, I am passionate about kids learning to eat the foods that contain the necessary nutrients to help them thrive and reach their full potential in life.
Here are 3 important ways that I believe the foods we give our children can affect their health and behaviour:
1. Our "Western Diet" is lacking in essential nutrients
The diet that our children eat today is vastly different to that of previous generations, who ate foods that were fresh and locally grown. Breakfast cereals, snack bars, chips, flavoured yoghurts, soft drinks and other processed foods are modern inventions for our convenience but they come at a heavy price.
A good supply of vitamins, minerals, protein and healthy fats are needed for healthy growth, development and learning. A child eating a diet of processed cereals, snacks and juice could be deficient in a few key nutrients.
It is important to get good nutrition advice for your family because the dietary needs of children change as they grow from toddlers to adolescents. An imbalance of nutrients can show up in many ways, including delayed growth, difficulty concentrating, recurrent colds or infections, fussy eating, anxiety and tantrums.
2. Food additives can cause harm
There are many artificial colourings, flavourings and preservatives added to our food to improve the look, the taste, the cost effectiveness and the shelf life of these products. Children are more sensitive to the effects of these additives than adults are and the long term effects of consuming these artificial additives are not known.
Short term effects from consuming food additives can include irritability, restlessness, inattention and disrupted sleep.
Sugar is a natural additive that is added to an assortment of foods, many of which are savoury such as tomato sauce and salad dressings. Breakfast cereals, juice, flavoured yoghurts and muesli bars are a common source of added sugar in children's diets.
Sugary foods cause a blood sugar rise which can cause hyperactivity, anxiety and difficulty in concentrating. Eaten regularly, these foods can suppress the immune system, cause kids to be more vulnerable to colds and flu and lead to unhealthy weight gain.
3. Food Intolerances
Some children are more sensitive than others to certain foods. Foods such as milk, bread, pasta, even certain fruits and vegetables can cause problems if the child develops an intolerance. Kids can be intolerant to the gluten, lactose, fructose, salicylates or additives in food.
There are many ways that food intolerances can affect children and some of the reactions can be delayed, so it can be really hard to tell if the problem is caused by the food your child is eating.
Complaints caused by food intolerances could be: digestive distress, constipation, anxiety, headaches, bed wetting, behavioural problems, asthma, insomnia, eczema or a constant runny nose.
How to find out more about food and your child's health:
I also run several workshops each year to help parents understand how to manage their children's health using food and natural therapies. This workshop has lots of tips on how to know when to treat your child at home and when it's important to seek help and tips for dealing with fussy eaters and common childhood illnesses.