We all want our children to be healthy and happy, intelligent and resourceful, and to be able to focus on and enjoy their schoolwork. With the start of the year comes the perfect opportunity to create new healthy habits for your kids and for the entire family.
World-renowned nutritional expert and psychologist, Patrick Holford, says that the single most important thing you can do for your child’s future health and happiness is to give them optimum nutrition.
“Countless studies show that you can increase the intelligence, attention span, concentration, problem solving skills, emotional response, mood and physical coordination – all the facets of intelligence – simply by changing what goes into and onto their bowls, plates and lunch boxes,” says Holford.
Make the following changes to your child’s diet and watch them flourish in 2016:
- Never skip breakfast
Eating a decent breakfast really is essential for your child to be able to concentrate at school. Avoid toast and jam or sugary cereals as these will send their blood sugar levels soaring. These are laced with sugar, making them hyperactive or irritable before experiencing an energy dip (sugar low) sometime during the mid-morning. Instead, choose oat flakes or porridge made with natural rolled oats and sweetened with fresh fruit.
- Take your child off foods with additives or added sugar
Sugar creates imbalances in energy that can contribute to erratic behaviour, hyperactivity and mood changes. Sugared and caffeinated drinks are the worst. Researchers at Yale University gave healthy children a sugary soft drink followed by a blood test. They discovered that their adrenalin levels were five times higher than normal for up to five hours after they’d consumed the drink and that levels of irritability and anxiety increased in the children during the test period.
When checking food labels, check for additives – artificial colourings, sweeteners, preservatives and flavourings – as these can all contribute to adverse behaviour.
- Increase fruit and vegetables rich in vitamins and minerals
Ensure that their diet is rich in fresh fruit and vegetables which provide vitamins and minerals essential for building a strong, healthy body. Some children may be reluctant to swap their sweets for an apple, but if you hold firm, often their sweet tooth will recede. Use your imagination to make fresh food more exciting. You can tempt them with bite-size snacks of cherry tomatoes, berries or grapes, baked apples or pears with cinnamon and served with creamy Greek yoghurt, cut vegetables into fun shapes to eat with dips, or puree and ‘disguise’ them in sauces and soups.
- Boost levels of essential fats
A deficiency in essential fats could negatively impact your child’s behaviour. The brain and nervous system needs a good supply of special essential fats called Omega 6 and Omega 3 to function and develop effectively. Essential fats are found in abundance in oily fish like salmon, mackerel, tuna and certain seeds. A good idea is to sprinkle ground seeds on your child’s cereal, soups or in their salads. The magic formula is to mix half pumpkin, sunflower and sesame seeds with half linseeds, store in a glass jar in the fridge and then grind fresh in a coffee grinder before serving.
- Supplement the diet
Your child can benefit from a quality daily multivitamin in addition to a well-balanced diet. All the evidence shows that just eating the recommended daily amount (RDA) of vitamins is not enough to really maximise their potential. Simply put, if you want to guarantee optimum nutrition for your child, give them a high strength children’s multivitamin with more than the RDA.