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Childrens Mental Wellbeing – Food

This week is Childrens Mental Health Week and I am writing three blogs highlighting the main areas that we can actively work on to help our children have a healthy mental wellbeing. Previously I have done sleep and I will finish with exercise. Today I am going to be writing about food.

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I love food, my family loves food. I love to cook, my family doesn’t always like what I cook but its about getting your children to try new foods and broden their tastes, the world would be a boring place in my opinion if we only ate a few favourite dishes. Educating our children like this is our job as parents. Anyway, this blog isnt about ensuring your child like sushi but for me to discuss how important what your child eats and whats in their diet, and how it can have a very positive effect on their mental wellbeing as well as their physical health.

Having a healthy diet has shown these benefits

  • Doing better at school
  • Feeling better about themselves
  • Feeling better about their bodies
  • Feeling better about their abilities
  • Coping better with stress
  • Managing their emotions
  • Sleeping better

The other factor that to me is ultimately the most important thing is that we much teach our children to be healthy and also teach them to cook so that in adult life they can do this for themselves. The more knowledge we have about food, the better choices we make about what we are eating.

What should my child be eating?

Each child is different so there is no fixed rule about what should be eaten and when, children are different sizes and do different amounts of exercise so there can be no strict rule on how much they should eat. There are charts that show you guidelines by the British Nutrition Foundation which I have attached here. These are based on your childs health in general but I would like to focus on their mental health.

For a healthy mental health we need foods that

  • give us energy
  • keep us full
  • that we enjoy

 

If we have energy then we can achieve more, when we achieve more we feel better about ourselves. POSITIVE MENTAL WELLBEING

When we are full we able to concentrate on what we are doing and do it to our best ability. It will also enable us to have a great nights sleep. POSITIVE MENTAL WELLBEING.

Enjoying food shows us that we can enjoy something. One of the signs of depression is not enjoying food and struggling eat. Having food that you enjoy and you know is healthy is a winning combination. POSITIVE MENTAL WELLBEING.

Its not that confusing and its no different for children. I could say that kids need pulses and nuts all day but its not going to happen, they simply wont eat it.

So lets work through the day.

Breakfast

It is the most important meal of the day and it does ‘break the fast’ so we need to make it a good meal. One common mistake with children is feeding them sugary cereals, they are no good and thats the end of it. Not only will children get a rush followed by a crash from sugar it will also potentially give children a sweet tooth.

My advice is to give a non sugar coated cereal such a weetabix, shreaded wheat, bran flakes and if necessary add some honey and fruit. Wholemeal toast is a good option too with butter and honey or some palm oil free peanut butter. These foods will keep them full and learn better at school. Keeping alert in lessons will mean that they learn more and their confidence will flourish.

Even on the weekends I wouldnt recommend “treat” cereals on both days. You want your children to achieve things on the weekend, whether it be a great painting or a really muddy walk. Giving them a good breakfast will enable them to have the energy to learn new skills that are not the ones that are taught to them at school, we want our kids to seek new adventures (essentially not be stuck to screens where the adventures are made for them nor have no energy from poor food choices).

If you are feeling flashy then eggs are the ideal breakfast with a lovely wholemeal bagel, packed full of protein, fats and carbs it really is a brilliant start to the day.

Lunch

Packed Lunches – The amount of rubbish that is so easy to put in packed lunches is endless. A packed lunch is what our child is having in the middle of their “working” day. We need it to be packed full of fruit, veg, protein and carbs. I give my daughter a small wholemeal roll or pitta with cheese or ham or chicken (she doesnt like having tuna at school as it smells fishy!!). Then I will add a little cheese block or a bit of salami depending what the sandwich is. I then have one of those compratment lunch boxes so I put different vegetables in each (fruit is for snack time). I do allow her some crisps or a different treat but I pick baked crisps or some ricecakes.

Lunches at home generally can be similar to packed lunches. I find my kids love a “picky” meal and for my older ones I just do a bigger sandwich.

Dinner

Kids need carbs! To get them through the night they NEED carbs. Yes they also need protein and fat and veg but to ensure good sleep then carbs is the answer for children. Also they burn calories at a fast rate so carbs are perfect.

Pasta (wholemeal is better), jacket potatoes, rice (again wholemeal is best), sweet potatoes, noodles… these are easy bases for all your favourite meals. For a full break down on what your child could and should have then please follow the link above but here are a few of the meals we have at home.

  • Spaghetti bolognese with hidden veg, soya mince and wholemeal pasta.
  • Chicken noodles with loads of much loved veggies (sweetcorn, peppers, brocolli etc)
  • Jacket potates beans and cheese (stick a salad on the side and its a great meal!)
  • Salmon pasta with philadelphia. Veggies on the side
  • Chicken curry and rice. Stick some chikpeas, cauliflower and spinach in the mix!
  • Sweet potato fries, keep the skin on and make a homemade nandos!!

What is a great thing to do once a week is let your child cook with you. Not only will this allow them to see what is going in their dinner, they will also learn how to prepare and cook it (this process is going to make them more likely to eat the meal). The other thing that cooking with your child will do is allow you to have a time to talk, maybe for your child to open up about potential issues that have been affecting them, when the mind is given a different task some of the underlying issues can come out.

Snacks

At school I only allow fruit, I dont allow cereal bars because they are packed full of sugar. If in need a box of raisins comes to the rescue.

At home I make fruit salad bowls and I also make sure I have rich tea biscuits in the tin. These have the lowest amount of sugar in them and my girls love them, dont get me wrong the girls have treats too. I just try to limit them. I also ensure that they only get them when they have eaten ALL of their dinner/lunch.

Yoghurts are also great and much needed for the calcium.

I know all this already

I am sure I am just rambling away to people who know far more than me (or not and nobody is reading it so it doesnt matter). I am not claiming to be a professional in this area I just know that what we eat will help our kids to have a clear and healthy head to take on the challenges of their day. Fuel your kids to achieve their absolute best!

Thank you for reading

Jo xxx

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anorexia, blogging, body image, children, depression, diet, family, food, health, help, meatfree, mental health, motherhood, mum blogger, mums, parenting, self love, Uncategorized, vegan, writing

When it comes to body image, how can I be a good role model?

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After having my first daughter I developed an eating disorder, I suppose it would come under anorexia as I really struggled to eat and felt like even the smallest amount of food would make me fat, I would skip meals by telling people I was going out for dinner later (and so wouldn’t eat lunch) and then do the opposite later on in the day, some days I wouldn’t eat, on days I would eat I would then make myself sick. I looked awful, really really awful. My skin was bad, my body was all out of proportion and my hair was thinning. I weighed 7 and a half stone, I had a BMI of 16.4 (that’s seriously underweight and should be between 18.5 and 25). It impacted into every part of my life and it would cause me panic when it came to anything food related for example family events, weekends away and birthdays. It was a very low point in my life.

Fast forward to now (11 years later) I weigh 9 and half stone and have a BMI of 20.6. I try and keep myself around this weight although last year I was a stone heavier, I only lost the weight again (very slowly) so my clothes would fit better as I can’t afford to buy a whole new wardrobe. I understand that I will always have a strange relationship with food and that I can slip into a negative place from time to time, but I have come a long way since those darker days, but what I must make sure is that I do not project this bad relationship with food and body image onto my children, but just how does someone who has had (and will in a small way always have) an eating disorder do that? How does any parent do that? We all have hang ups don’t we?

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I have used my experience as a mum to three girls (one of whom is at a very delicate age of nearly 12), plus I have done a fair amount of research. Here are my ideas how we project a positive body image onto our children.

  • Listen – When my child comes to me, I listen, no matter how silly or small the problem is I give them time. Obviously there are times where you have ask them to wait till you are free, but they do get my ear eventually and I do listen. When I am faced with problems about the body, or things that have been said about their image at school I sympathise, it doesn’t matter if what has been said is ridiculous, if it has hurt your child then its serious to them and to you. I let my girls know about situations in my life where I have faced similar scenarios as by letting them into my life I feel they let me into theirs a bit more. Yes we need to be strong for our kids but they also need to know we are human too.

  • Skills, talents and achievements – As we know there is so much more to us in this life than just how we look, but as a child/ teenager there will be stages where it doesn’t feel like that. As well a listening we need to make sure that our children know that their skills and achievements are acknowledged. Many of these skills (especially academically) will stay with them forever, where as the way we look will change drastically (looking back at photos of me aged 12 is actually hysterical and only my Mum would be able to tell that it was me). We are all special and unique, we are all good at things and we should all be proud of ourselves, this doesn’t come naturally and we must help our children realise their potential. So pay your children compliments, about the way they look AND what they are good at.

  • Self Love – This is the hardest one for me, and I cant preach that I am remotely good at it, but I do know its important. We must try and show outward body confidence, easier said than done, I know, but while researching for this and contemplating writing this bit of advice (as I feel hypocritical) it got me thinking that we all must try to be more confident for the sake of our children, and I think the more we do, the more we will believe it. Remember, our children think we are the most beautiful women in the world, lets not burst their bubble!

  • Self affirmations – A while ago, my best friend Jennie said to my girls that they must believe in themselves and love themselves, she told them to write self affirmations and say them to themselves every morning. Well, they sniggered at her. Later that week I made them do it, and though they don’t read them everyday, they decorated them and we have kept them, so when we have a down day we can get them out and read them. I kept them relative to their age, very simple to more meaningful, but not too complex. I have photographed mine and an example of a child’s. Give it a go, it helped me at least.
  • Dads – My girls are lucky enough to have a Dad and a Step Dad. A man’s perspective on women and themselves is incredibly important. The way that your husband or partner talks to you and them about appearance (men and women) is as integral as you as Mum. The same goes with the way they feel about their own appearance.

  • Food  – An essential part of life is eating and if you are like me, then sometimes it can be an issue. The way I see it is that you should show your children how to be healthy (by making healthy food choices and cooking homemade food) and also by having some treats. Let them see you eat a slab of cake once in a while, or a big burger and fries. Never eat in secret, this is a something I have real knowledge of and is very harming to children, there is nothing to be ashamed of when it comes to eating. I know some of us women like people to think that we live off lettuce leaves and air, but when we get home will be eating ham or another quick fridge find straight out the pack. Well I am telling you, we shouldn’t do this, for ourselves and our kids. Food is great, and is a social enjoyable thing, family meals are so important too, sitting toegther and enjoying food will give your children a healthy relationship with it.
  • Modern technology –  This is THE BIG ONE. The world has changed/ evolved and nearly all kids have use of the internet and eventually social media. I read a horrendous statistic today in an article called ‘uncomfortable in your skin report’ that young girls who use social media are bombarded by up to 5000 digitally enhanced images every week, what on earth will that be doing to the way they feel they should look. I don’t believe that we can stop this, yes we can educate our children to follow appropriate people but if you have a daughter like mine I think I am asking the impossible. She loves the Kardashians and that’s that. I think as parents in this day and age we have to adjust our mindset and work with this being part of our children’s lives, we have to teach them that it’s not real and I think we can show them some amazing people who are far better role models, so that they may follow them alongside the digitally enhanced loves of their lives. I have found a few amazing instagram/ web sites that are fantastic for every one to help with body image, firstly the beautiful Megan Jayne Crabbe (bodyposipanda) and Taryn Brumfitt (body image movement) both pages are rammed full of fantastic content. I have also attached a link to Taryns trailerHere  for her amazing Embrace documentary, give it a watch and if you want to you watch the full film on Netflix, I recommend it for all you Mums and Dads out there and then decide if you want to show your children, they advise on the website that it is for age 10/11+ but as that’s at the parents discretion.

I hope this has helped and as always I have found it invigorating to write. I hate to imagine my children being unhappy with their perfect bodies but I think we have to accept at times it will happen (I know I have already faced a fair few problems with the kids), it’s about us dealing with them and supporting our children in their journey.

Thanks for reading

Jo

blogging, children, depression, family, food, health, help, meatfree, mental health, motherhood, mum blogger, mums, parenting, Uncategorized, vegan, writing

Tots100

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A week ago I was honoured to find out that I had been chosen as a “new blog on the block” by Tots100 (clickHere) and I wanted to write about how happy and honoured I am, I also wanted to summarise how my first month of blogging has been.

I only started blogging in January and so in little over a month I feel like I have a slightly different (better) outlook to life. I now look at certain situations as potential, to write a good blog for myself or for Bad Mum Magazine, which I am also now an author for (another achievment). This means that instead of crying I actually laugh at situations a fair amount more, even today as I fell over in mud on my dog walk I documented it and posted it on my Instagram, because lets be honest its bloody funny.

The main focus of my blog so far has been my mental health and the highs and lows of it. I have opened up more than I have ever done and the response has been fantastic, even friends who I am close to have now shared parts of their lives that they had previoulsy kept to themselves, I feel humbled. What has been a highlight of my month and made me want to go further with my exploration of speaking about mental health is that Clasp Charity (a wonderful suicide prevention charity) are going to include me on their website as one of their inspiration people for talking about mental illness, and link people to my blog (I am not sure about the word inspirational but if it helps just one person reading my blogs then I have done more than I thought possible when starting this).

I am excited to see where this blog takes me next and one thing I do want to shine some light on is mental health in children so if anyone has experience of this, or could offer any insight please get in touch. I have recently became a brand rep for Warrior Tees UK, which is run by an amazing woman called Sam, who very much wants to show the younger generation that mental illness is okay and that we need more funding for it here in the UK. I want to delve a little deeper into the current situation with the NHS and after hearing a few heartbreaking stories in the past few weeks, it would appear that lack of funding is taking its toll (on all parts of the NHS, but I want to focus on adolescent mental health), so as I said please get in touch.

To finish, here is a little montage of the past month in pics

Thanks for reading

Jo

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Not quite Veganuary

I am in awe of all of my friends who are vegans and I can see how positive it is physically, environmentally and in many ways spiritually. Problem with me is I truly love steak and I like it rare and bloody (i’m currently day dreaming of a Hawksmoor porterhouse with Bernaise sauce and creamed spinach), yet with the blink of an eye I am yet again envious of my vegan friends and all their vegetables.

It’s with these paradoxical thoughts that 12 months ago (almost to the day) the Johnson household started “meat free Mondays”… we knew we couldn’t be vegans (unless I was willing to be a two time divorcee by the end of March), nor could we even manage veganuary but Meat free Monday we have stuck too and a year later I can’t see it stopping. Though only once a week, even that small change has benefited our health (which equates to more wine on Friday, right?) and done a little bit for the environment too, plus, I personally really love it and have added more vegetarian and vegan meals into my diet (it’s not had the same affect on my husband but he doesn’t hate Mondays dinner).

It would be fair to say that we have had a few fails, one evening I tried to make a certain Mr Oliver’s best ever bean burgers, my eldest daughter and I devoured ours with words like “who needs meat” and “let’s have these every Monday”… I looked up to my husband who’s face was like a hamster storing his food, he was in fact storing his best ever bean burger because he couldn’t actually swallow it. After removing said mouthful into a bit of kitchen roll he didn’t eat another bit and requested that he never had to again. I haven’t made them since.

A year later and I have come up with our top 5 meat free Monday offerings and I thought I would share them. They are easy and delicious (my 11 year old eats them all too, so family safe) and none of them should bust the bank. It’s a small change and nowhere near being vegan but it’s a healthy step and opened my eyes to different options, why don’t you give it a go?

Tofu Thai curry

Ingredients
1 pack of Cauldron organic marinated tofu pieces
1 pack baby sweet corn
1 pack mange tout
1 pack tender stem broccoli
1 red onion
Veg stock pot
Garlic clove
2 tsp Red or green Thai curry paste (mae ploy)
1 can coconut milk
Coconut oil
Fish sauce

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Fry onion in a pan till soft and add garlic

Add in veg (cut the broccoli a little smaller and half the corn lengthways)

When it’s a softening add in the tofu and the stock pot

Add the Thai paste and mix in till all the vegetables are cooked, then add the milk and cook until hot through and then take off the heat.

Add a small splash of fish sauce and serve with rice.

(Sometimes I add extra tofu (if on offer) and whatever veg is on offer/ reduced also if you don’t mind and only have chicken stock then add that, I also like throwing in some cherry tomatoes at the end too)

Roast veggie Tart

1 sheet puff pastry
1/2 Aubergine
Courgette
Red pepper
8 Sundried tomatoes
Red onion
1/2 jar pasta sauce (or red pesto, but anything you have left over in the fridge will do)
130g goats cheese
Oregano

Caramalised onion marmalade

(Side salad of your choice)

Preheat oven to 180

Chop all veg up and put in an oven dish, season and pour some of the oil from the jar of sundried tomatoes, add oregano

Put in the oven for 40mins

On a large baking sheet lie the puff pastry down and score around the edge about 1cm in.

Spread the sauce over the inside of the base

When the veg is done spread that on top of the sauce

Sprinkle over the goats cheese, add a few blobs of the caramelised onions and season

Stick back in the oven for 20minutes and serve with a side salad

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Cauliflower, spinach and chickpea curry

1/2 cauliflower (cut into small steaks) (add some broccoli too if you have any)
Bag spinach
Can chickpeas
Red onion thinly sliced
Garlic
Pataks tikka masala paste
Coconut milk
Veg stock pot
Coconut oil

Fry the onions until soft and add the garlic

Add the cauliflower and fry so it’s browned then lower the heat and add a few splashes of water and put a lid on the pan, leave for 5 minutes.

Add 2 tblsp of curry paste and add the drained chick peas

Stir and add the stock pot, if it gets dry then add water as needed

When the cauliflower is cooked then add the coconut milk, when it is heated through turn off the heat.

Now stick the spinach on top and put the lid on it. Leave for a minute and then stir the spinach through.

Serve with rice

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Butternut squash risotto

1 small butternut squash
Thyme
1 red onion finely chopped (or white onion but the red onion gives it a caramelised taste)
90g Parmesan
300g risotto rice
1 litre vegetable stock
Butter
175ml white wine
Olive oil

Heat oven at 180

Cut butternut squash into small cubes, put on an oven tray, drizzle with olive oil, season and sprinkle with thyme

Cook for 45 minutes (this can be done ahead of cooking the risotto)

Get a large frying pan and melt a big knob if butter and add the onion

When it’s softened add the rice, stir around till the rice is slightly translucent and then add the wine

Once the wine has cooked into rice add the first label of stock and a pinch of Maldon salt

Keep stirring the risotto with the heat down

When it gets dry just add more stock and keep stirring, continue this till the rice is cooked (if you run out of stock then add boiling water)

Add in the butternut squash and stir till it’s hot, turn off the heat and add the Parmesan. Season well and serve.

My gorgeous Tabitha (aged 7) loves to cook with me and though she did eventually get bored making risotto (it is a labour of love), she helped me start and i think its really important to get kids cooking early and loving food.

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Last but not least…

If you are busy and gymnastics over runs or you can’t find the brownie uniform the last recipe is the one

Jacket potato beans and cheese

Potatoes (sweet or jacket)
Baked beans
Cheese
Coleslaw
Salad

(I won’t insult you with the method)

If you try the recipes please let me know how you get on, I am no chef and simply a mum who tries to cook good meals, cheaply and as quick a possible.

Jo