How healthy eating for kids can protect them from the effects of stress

If we are talking about healthy eating for kids, then it is worth considering the phrase “you are what you eat”. When you think about the fact that your childrens' bodies are created from what they put in their mouths and the air they breathe, then that phrase makes a lot of sense. If we assume that this idea is true, then it is obvious than in order to have healthy, stress free children we need to pay attention to what they are eating.

A diet full of junk food and sugar provides very little of the essential nutrition that a growing child needs. It will also upset your child’s body chemistry and make him much more prone to the effects of stress. Click here for information on how different foods affect stress levels. Children are also particularly sensitive to the effects of chemicals in food. The blood-brain barrier in children is not fully developed, as it is in adults. So chemicals are more likely to get into their brains and cause damage, which can lead to stress, learning difficulties and behavioral problems. For these reasons, it is clear that healthy eating for kids is essential for their well being.

There are many chemicals in processed foods and you will help your children by encouraging them to avoid:

- sugar free drinks containing aspartame
- foods containing monosodium glutamate (MSG): crisps, pot noodles, etc.
- biscuits, crisps and other foods containing hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated fats
- margarines containing trans fatty acids
- foods that are high in sugar – this white stuff contains only rapidly processed sugar with no nutrients to help the body deal with it.

Children need the right amounts of the standard building blocks – proteins, carbohydrates, fats and fibre. They also need optimum amounts of vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals and fluids. Optimum means providing enough nutrition to allow your child to thrive, have a powerful immune system and a well functioning brain. The recommended daily allowance is sometimes just enough to prevent vitamin deprivation conditions such as scurvy and rickets.

Optimum amounts can be obtained from a really healthy diet, high in organic fruits and vegetables. However, the ideal diet can be difficult, expensive and time-consuming to achieve. Also, it is not always easy to get children to eat the foods you know are best for them. So you can add to your healthy eating for kids regime by giving them a multi-vitamin plus minerals and an essential fatty acid (preferably fish oil if your family is not vegetarian) supplement every day. This can help to make sure they are getting all the nutrients they need. You can get both of these in forms designed for children that are easy to take. However, please do not rely on supplements. There is no substitute for a good diet and encouraging your child to eat well is giving them a benefit that will last a lifetime.

What is the best diet for stress free children?

Well, I know you have probably heard it a lot, but it doesn’t do any harm to reiterate the basics of good, healthy eating for kids which will also reduce their stress levels.

Foods to eat plenty of:

Lots of fruit and vegetables and as wide a variety of each as possible. There really is no such thing as too much fruit and veg.

Unrefined carbohydrates such as:
wholemeal bread
wholemeal pasta
brown rice
potatoes with their skins on
rye bread

Good quality, low fat protein:
soya (once a week)
organic dairy (non-organic dairy foods are full of anti-biotics and growth hormones) such as soft cheeses, yoghurt and milk (try goats milk – it’s delicious and kind to animals because it is not intensively farmed)

Unrefined sources of fats
cold-pressed oils (extra virgin olive oil, food grade coconut oil or butter are the healthiest choices for cooking with).

Foods to eat occasionally:

Carbohydrates: sugar, pizza, white pasta, white bread, cakes, biscuits, sweets, chocolate, chips, crisps and fried snacks.

Proteins: red meat, sausages, bacon, ham, hard cheeses.

Fats: margarine (look for ones that say they have no trans fatty acids) and butter alternatives, ice-cream, refined cooking oils.

If you stick to these healthy eating for kids guidelines and adapt them to your family’s tastes you will be ensuring that your children’s diet is healthy. And you will also be ensuring that they have the best possible nutrition to help them cope well with the stresses of everyday life.

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