Improve behaviour with diet

diet and children's behaviour

While studies into the effect food has on a child’s behaviour have seen mixed results, it is important to get the child into the habit of healthy eating. With the recent release of the Sugar Smart app, parents are looking for healthier alternatives.

The first area to focus on in a child’s diet is the overall nutritional content. The principles of a balanced diet include small, frequent meals, plenty of water, fresh fruits and vegetables and essential fatty acids.

Breakfast

Always encourage your child to eat breakfast before heading out to school. Eating breakfast prepares the mind and body for a day of activities and will stop them from snacking later in the day. However, many cereals available in the supermarkets contain a lot of added sugar.

Instead try to include lower-GI foods, including:

  • Whole grain toast and a boiled egg.
  • Porridge with apple and some natural yoghurt.
  • Weetabix with milk and a sliced banana.

Additives

Food additives are used to enhance flavour or to prevent foods from spoiling. Additives include preservatives, artificial flavourings, colours and acidifiers. Many of the additives found in food have been linked to allergies, asthma, migraines and hyperactivity in children.

Studies have shown that a child who eats a diet free of additives can grow to be healthier, better behaved and have improved concentration. The trick with this is to look at the labels of the food you are buying. If you cannot pronounce the ingredient or you do not know what it is, don’t buy it. Instead, take the kids in the kitchen and make some snacks yourself!

Iron and zinc deficiencies

Both iron and zinc deficiencies have been linked to a child’s behaviour. If a child is under the age of two, an iron deficiency can result in long-term attention and mood issues. Recent studies also found that many children living with ADHD have lower levels of zinc. Improving these levels has been linked to reducing symptoms of hyperactivity and enhancing the child’s social skills.

Good sources of iron and zinc include:

  • Spaghetti Bolognese.
  • Green vegetables such as seaweed, peas or spinach.
  • Beans and pulses on soy and linseed bread.
  • Dairy foods including cheese and yoghurt (good source of zinc).
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Ellen Hoggard

Written by Ellen Hoggard

Ellen is the Content Manager for Memiah and writer for Nutritionist Resource and Happiful magazine.
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