09 May Foods to boost your child’s mood, energy in the day and sleep
It is key to balance a child’s blood sugar levels throughout the day for mood, concentration and energy. Hunger is so often misconstrued for thirst, living on the equator in Singapore, children are often dehydrated, which directly impacts mood, focus and energy, encourage water intake by adding slices of lemon or lime to water bottles.
The importance of balancing a child’s blood sugar
First let’s think what it looks like when a child has a blood sugar high! One only has to consider a children’s party when children are fed refined foods and the child leaves hyper and temper is rising compared to the normal calmer temperament, with no sugar and colourants in the body, to understand that a rise in blood sugar is swiftly followed by a crash in blood sugar leaving the child irritable and moody.
Blood sugar rises too high on empty, refined sugary carbohydrates, fizzy drinks and juice. Fructose alone also causes this high so giving children fruit only snacks also adds to this roller coaster ride. So the key to blood sugar balance is never to skip meals, and combine protein with slow releasing whole grains avoiding the whites and the refined processed foods. With fruit offer protein, or encourage more crudité eating with dips such as hummus or guacamole.
Children’s nutrition has never been so important and particularly as we live in a world of highly processed, toxic foods affecting child’s brain development and well-being. Obesity is rising at a horrifying rate mainly due to the cheap and readily available processed foods high in sugars and trans fats which are toxic to the body and brain development. Children are growing and therefore need to be nourished with foods that support that growth, do not create inflammation in the body and support optimal brain function.
Breakfast is the most important meal of the day
The best breakfast is left overs from the night before, but we have fallen into the sugar trap of Kelloggs, and other refined baked goods leaving behind traditions of cooked breakfast, rich in protein, good fats and wholegrains. It is key to eat protein at every meal to balance blood sugar. Adding eggs into breakfast is a great option. Eggs are complete protein, also rich in choline to boost brain function, high in zinc and iron for growth and repair. Making wholegrain pancakes with buckwheat flour or having scrambled eggs with wholegrain toast are quick and easy ways to add protein into breakfast. So often children are low in magnesium, which is a vital mineral for energy, mood, sound restful sleep, and immunity. Due to refining processes magnesium is stripped away along with other minerals so introducing wholegrains into the diet boosts magnesium levels in the body. Think oats not wheat: oats are a tryptophan rich food boosting good sleep and slow releasing too, so don’t add to the blood sugar roller coaster ride.
Magnesium is also rich in dark green leafy vegetables so introduce stir fry of green vegetables, or blend into soups, casseroles to increase vital folate and magnesium.
Essential fatty acids (EFA’s) are called essential as the body cannot make them on its own, we must take them in via our diet. EFAs are vital for mood, brain development, balanced hormones and skin. Hiding ground seeds into porridge, pancake mixture, baked goods and smoothies is a great way to boost brain function as well as giving protein and vital minerals for mood. Pumpkin seeds are high in zinc so a great mood food and immune boosting snack.
Oily fish such as salmon, trout, sardines and mackerel are all high in EFAs. Aim to give wild caught oily fish three times a week avoiding tuna as high in mercury and damaging to brain function. Avocados are rich in good oils boosting mood and energy. Healthy fats are not only excellent brain foods but also make you feel full for longer, add in coconut oil to cooking and baked goods, add oils into smoothies such as cold pressed hemp oil or coconut oil.
The most nourishing foods for a growing child is good quality, clean protein, keeping blood sugar balanced by removing the whites: the refined sugars and grains and introducing colourful vegetables and fruits. Soups, smoothies and finely chopped vegetables can assist even the fussiest of eaters. Introduce the essential fats and ensure a portion is given daily either though fish, raw nuts, seeds and their oils. Remember the rule of 10! So often we give up offering a new food after one or two attempts but the golden number is 10, so perseverance is key!
Contributor: Susie Rucker
Susie has a BA Hons in Paediatric nursing and internationally recognised qualifications in Kinesiology and Nutritional Therapy, providing her with a unique perspective on the importance of health and nutrition in everyday life. Susie worked in London at the Chelsea and Westminster High Dependency Unit and Paediatric Accident and Emergency Unit for many years, as well as overseas nursing work with NGOs in Africa and with Médecins Sans Frontières in Sri Lanka. Moving to Hong Kong where there was a high incidence of respiratory infections, Susie worked in a clinic where the doctor put nutrition first, boosting the immune system with supplements, rather than resorting to antibiotics. This inspired Susie to learn more about the power of nutrition and led to three years of training in nutritional therapy at Patrick Holford’s world-acclaimed Institute of Optimum Nutrition in London.