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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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