Healthy eating can stabilize children’s energy, sharpen their minds and even out their moods. While getting your kids to eat well may seem impossible, there are steps you can take to instill healthy eating habits without turning mealtimes into a battle zone. By encouraging healthy eating habits now, you can make a huge impact on your children’s lifelong relationship with food and give them the best opportunity to grow into healthy teenagers and adults.
1) Say NO to sugar
Ever picked your child up from a birthday party and opened the door on a roomful of kids bouncing off the walls? All that sugar has an amazingly dramatic effect on the brain. So it’s hardly surprising that in daily life too, overdoing the sweet stuff affects your child’s brain and behavior at school. In saying that – nothing is more important to your child’s brain glucose. It is the brain’s main fuel, so without an adequate supply we they can’t think clearly. We get it from carbohydrates in the foods we eat. The trick lies in keeping that supply EVEN. So what do you do to improve your child’s blood sugar balance? The answer lies in step number 2.
2) Eat low-GL foods
The sugars and starches in foods with a high GL (refined carbohydrates like white bread, sweets, biscuits) are broken down and absorbed quickly into the bloodstream making your child’s blood glucose levels soar. This is when they are likely to experience a boost of energy followed by an energy crash and poor behavior. The sugars and starches in low GL foods (complex carbohydrates like whole grains, beans, lentils, nuts) take longer to digest than refined carbohydrates. As a result the glucose from these trickles slowly into the bloodstream. This means that it is used as energy rather than being stored, leaving blood glucose levels even and preventing dramatic changes in mood, behavior and energy.
3) Eat carbohydrates with fibre and protein
The more fibre and protein you incude with any meal or snack, the slower the release of the carbohydrate, which is good for blood-glucose balance. So, combining protein-rich foods with high fibre carbohydrates is an excellent rule of thumb in this context. Here is how you do it:
- Pack seeds and nuts with a fruit snack in their lunchboxes
- Add seeds or nuts to their breakfast cereals
- Top toast with eggs, baked beans or nut butter (sugar free)
- Add kidney beans to pasta souce served wholemeal pasta
- Make sandwiches with sugar-free peanut butter (it tastes the same) and wholemeal bread.
- Instead of crisps try oatcakes, pumpkin seeds, roasted snack mix or plain popcorn
- Instead of biscuits try sweet oatcakes (Nairns – available in health stores) and fruit and nut bars
- Instead of sweet try fruit and dried fruits
- Instead of ice cream have fresh fruit lollies or instant frozen yogurt
- Instead of sugar in drinks, baking and cereals try Xylitol – it tastes just like sugar but doesn’t upset the blood sugar as much.