If you’ve ever thought your child behaves differently after eating certain foods, you’re more than likely spot on.
The ingredients in the foods your child consumes fuel many factors that affect their behavior.
In fact, there’s a direct and undeniable correlation. And not enough people are talking about it.
Parents are busy. But do we take enough time to really think about what our kids are grabbing for breakfast, lunch, and snacks? That granola bar is loaded with corn syrup, sugar and artificial ingredients. How about what’s in those fruit snacks, chips or popsicles? Artificial dye, chemicals and so much sugar!
Why Is Good Nutrition So Important?
Nutrition is a critical part of health and development. Nourishing foods provide proper nutrients for our bodies essential for growing strong and maintaining bodily functions.
We live in a society where we eat so much processed and manufactured food that we’ve lost sight of what good nutrition looks like.
It can be quite simple. Think back to a time before microwaves, ovens, and packaged goods – simpler times. When eating whole real foods wasn’t a diet – it was truly a lifestyle.
What do I mean by eating whole real foods? Eating whole foods is simply eating foods in their natural state.
Here are a few of my family’s favorites:
Fruits & Vegetables – Enjoy abundantly with no pesticides or sprays because, yes, even what’s sprayed on our food has a detrimental effect on our bodies. Eat the rainbow in its natural state to give your body a wide range of nutrients and vitamins.
Meat – Chicken, beef, and fish are wonderful choices packed with protein and essential vitamins and minerals. Always go for organic, grass-fed, pasture-raised – the healthier the animal, the healthier the meat.
Whole Grains – Despite what everyone is saying around us, grains and carbs are not enemies. Grains are important sources of B vitamins (thiamin, riboflavin, niacin and folate) and minerals (iron, magnesium and selenium). Try to reduce gluten and opt for quinoa, amaranth, flaxseeds, sourdough bread and sprouted grains.
Water – It seems silly to list this. I know, I know. We’ve heard it a million times. Drink your water! But are your kids really getting their necessary water intake? Dehydration is serious, and most of our kids are walking around feeling the effects and don’t know how to tell us.
They may experience difficulty focusing, light-headedness, tiredness and circles under their eyes. There are so many signs. This is a great chance to toss all those juice boxes, sodas and sweetened drinks in the trash. Replace them with simple, clean water.
Healthy Fats – Swap out seed oils like vegetable, canola, sunflower and safflower oil. Replace seed oils with coconut, olive and avocado oil. This simple swap reduces inflammation almost immediately. As we all know, inflammation is the root of all sickness.
I know it’s hard, but it truly is so simple. Every single thing you put in your body has the power to nourish – or the ability to damage. It’s blunt. It’s scary. But it’s a simple truth.
How Nutrition Affects Your Child’s Health and Behavior
Most people know how important it is to eat a healthy diet. But do we really understand how it affects behavior?
Adults typically think about eating healthy to trim their waistline, lose a few pounds and look better in that bikini this summer. But nutrition is much more than that. Especially for our children, who are going through big changes. Their bodies are growing rapidly, and their brains are developing.
So we can all agree we tell our children to eat healthy so they can grow up to be big and strong, right? That’s partially true. The whole truth is that they need to eat healthy to grow and BE HEALTHY along that journey.
I want my children to be happy. I want them to enjoy life. I don’t want them sick, in trouble for misbehaving or struggling to concentrate. I definitely don’t want them having meltdowns and not understanding why they sometimes have no control. It breaks my heart because they truly don’t have any control in many of these cases.
Make Easy Changes Today
Our children may not have any control over their behavior when these toxic foods take hold, but as parents, we have some control. We can control what goes into their little bodies in the first place.
By making simple diet changes, you can drastically impact your child’s life starting TODAY.
Here are a few tips for easy changes that go a long way:
1. Never Skip Breakfast
Eating a balanced breakfast with protein is a great way to help your child start their day.
Some of my favorite go-to’s are:
- Baked oatmeal
- Greek yogurt with fruit or nuts
- Peanut butter toast on sprouted bread
- Hard-boiled eggs
- Overnight oats
I know mornings can be hectic, but your children can still have a healthy breakfast even if you don’t have time to cook.
2. Make Easy Swaps
Sometimes, too many changes too fast can be very stressful for your child. Especially if they’re already dealing with challenges in their behavior, so start gradually.
Some of the best easy swaps I’ve tried are:
- Coconut or almond milk instead of conventional cows milk
- Honey instead of sugar
- Whole wheat or sprouted bread instead of white bread
- Smoothie bowls instead of ice cream
- Popcorn instead of chips
Most of the time, your child won’t even notice these swaps, but their bodies will recognize it and be that much healthier!
*Important note: Don’t give honey to children under the age of 1.
3. Limit Sugar
Sugar is sneaky! It’s in almost everything on the shelves today. It’s dangerous and the biggest factor behind behavior issues in children. Excessive sugar leads to disease and disorders. The scary part is that we don’t even realize how much our children consume.
Try to replace white and brown sugars with:
- Pure Maple Syrup
- Fresh fruit
- Date Syrup
We need to take a closer look at the ingredients on labels. Understanding how quickly it adds up will make it easier to limit the amount of sugar intake. Over time, the goal should be to eliminate all added sugars completely.
4. Snack Smart
It’s easy to let your child choose snacks such as chips, granola bars and quick processed foods. By eliminating these foods in your home altogether and replacing them with healthy alternatives, you’re ahead of the game.
For those kiddos that are snackers – I love to have these choices sliced up and ready to eat in my fridge:
- Vegetables – carrots, cucumbers, celery
- Apples – apples, blueberries, raspberries, nectarines, oranges
- Nuts – pistachios, cashews, walnuts, almonds
- Smoothie popsicles – make a smoothie and freeze it in popsicle molds
These tasty alternatives are the perfect natural treat to energize you and your kiddos.
5. Cut Out Soda and Sweetened Beverages
Soda is a very obvious one to cut out. But what about sparkling water? A lot of parents don’t realize what’s lurking inside. Even if it’s advertised as zero-sugar, when examining the ingredients list a little closer – you’ll see several words you probably can’t pronounce. That is not a good sign.
Some of these words might be:
All of these have been reported to produce hyperactivity and other behavioral problems in children.
You Are the Biggest Influence
You are, hands down, the biggest influence on your child. Teaching your child the importance of healthy eating is one of the best things you can do. Starting with these changes today makes it way easier.
Just remember: one step at a time in the right direction leads to change and growth beyond what you can imagine. Just keep moving. Keep teaching your child one new habit a day, and see what the compound effect does to your child’s life! You may even learn a few new things yourself.
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