Food and your Childs Behaviour
If you ask most parents they will say that when their kids eat food high in sugar they become more “hyped up”. Research suggests that many children will consume up to 70 kilos of sugar each year and this is mostly from carbonated soft drink and fruit juices although there are many other culprits that are less obvious.
Our Australian diet (which is consistent with most western countries) has a high proportion of processed foods, which are loaded with preservatives, additives, and dyes as well as high levels of sugar and saturated fats.
Research shows that there is a deterioration in behaviour when children consume certain additives found in a variety of foods. A study published by the University of Southampton clearly demonstrated a link between 3 common food additives (preservatives and colours) as triggering negative behaviours in a large group of children in the general population.
Some things that affect children negatively
Many countries now ban specific food colourings because of the negative effects they have on children. Some have been linked to anxiety, hyperactivity, and headaches as well as significant behavioural issues in children. These include the following artificial colours:
- 102, 104, 107, 110
- 122, 123, 124, 127, 129
- 132, 133
- 142, 143
- 151, 155
- 160b 173, 174, 175
There are several preservatives that may cause behavioral problems in children. These include monosodium glutamate (MSG), which is a flavor enhancer, and sodium benzoate which is often found in juice products marketed toward children. Here are some other preservatives to watch out for:
- 200 – 203: Found in cheese and cheese based products, dips, drinks
- 210 – 213: Soft drinks, cordials, medicine
- 220 – 228: Dried fruits, cordials, juices and processed meats
- 249 – 252: Cured processed meats (ham, bacon, hotdogs)
- 280 – 283: Bread and bakery products
- 310 – 312
- 320 – 321
Thirty years ago the food we ate was mostly fresh fruit, vegetables and protein and most of the produce was locally grown or sourced. It was prepared with minimal interference from humans – by that I mean we didn’t add much and certainly not artificial colours, flavours or preservatives.
As a parent you are able to significantly influence your children and encourage healthy eating habits. If you don’t have foods in the house that are highly process your children will not be able to eat them. Be a great example by eating fresh fruits, vegetables and whole grains with meals or as a snack and carry a bottle of water around with you everywhere you go.
Get the kids to come food shopping with you, talk to them about fruits and vegetables that are in season. Get the kids to pick a new food to try each week and remember to include foods with a variety of colours with each meal as they will contain different combinations of nutrients.
Children who eat well-balanced meals and nutritious snacks every day have a longer attention span, better concentration, more sustained energy and are less likely to be aggressive, impulsive or irritable.
Children need to eat lots of fruits and vegetables, whole grains (brown rice , wholegrain bread and wholemeal pasta), beans and lentils, moderate amounts of lean meat, fish, nuts and dairy products (cheese, yoghurt, milk).
I do work with some children who have food sensitives or sensory issues and they may need to have a multivitamin or extra vitamins and minerals each day. PLEASE DO NOT give your children “vitamins’ that are made into gummy sugar coated lollies as they are no better than giving your child a lolly to eat. A local chemist or health food shop will stock good quality vitamins and minerals.
For some easy ways to get some extra fresh fruit and vegetables into your kids’ diet take a look at the following website for some meal and snack ideas.
[highlight sc_id=”sc1424597013474″]Go for 2 & 5[/highlight]
[highlight sc_id=”sc1424597028954″]Heart Foundation[/highlight]
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