Can Food Affect Children’s Behaviour?When a fistful of skittles whips them into a frenzy.

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All parents aim to give their children nutritional foods as often as possible but it can be difficult to always have something on hand.

Meal planning is a serious art form and when you are busy it can get tricky to find the time to have nutritional meals always available.

Furthermore, getting your kids to eat the required dietary intake  is also a full time job that, even with constant pleading, begging and bribing, doesn’t always work out. And thus sometimes we succumb to the artificial cereal for breakfast, the party pies for lunch, the takeaway food for dinner and the chocolate bickies for snacks.

But, are these foods causing more problems for your kids than you realise? You may be surprised.

A recent experiment done by The Food Hospital, a British TV documentary series, recently asked the question “does food affect children’s behaviour?” by feeding two groups of children aged 5-9 different foods and monitoring their behaviour.

Test Group One snacked on apple slices, carrot sticks, sandwiches, hummus and water while Test Group Two were offered lollies, potato chips and soft drink. The children were then monitored in a variety of party games.

The children in Test Group One (healthy snacks) displayed 120 instances of bad behaviour compared to 720 instances of bad behaviour in Test Group Two (unhealthy snack options).

It was also noted that the children in Test Group One performed “48 percent better” than the children in Test Group Two.

What does this mean?  

It could mean that your kid’s aggressive, mean and hyperactive behaviour could be linked to their food choices. According to the above study, there are three things that have been linked to poor behaviour in kids to be wary of when selecting foods:

  • Artificial Colouring – yes they make food look good and taste better but artificial colouring (food dyes) have been linked to behavioural problems for decades now. Artificial colouring are often found in packaged snacks, lollies and kid’s cereals.
  • Sodium Benzoate – sounds like something you would find in drain cleaners, not food, but it is also found in some of the classic party and snack foods including fruit juice, soft drinks, condiments and lollies.
  • Trans Fats –  trans fats are unsaturated fats found in deep fried foods, such as hot chips and takeaway meals and one of the main causes of obesity, diabetes and behavioural problems such as aggression.

Does Food Affect Children's Behaviour | Stay At Home Mum

So what should kids be eating?

According to the Australian Dietary Guidelines and the Raising Children Network, children should be selecting foods from the five main food groups every day (fruit; veggies; cereals and grains; dairy; meat, fish, poultry, legumes and eggs).

Look for foods that include:

  • Folate and Iron –  responsible for boosting the immune system, fighting off fatigue and keeping energy levels up.
  • Protein – protein will fill your kids up all the while helping their bones and muscles develop.
  • Calcium and Magnesium – these are the minerals involved in healthy bone formation and development in your kids.
  • Vitamins and Minerals – including vitamin A, B1, B2, B3, B12 and Vitamin C as well as phosphorus, magnesium and iodine, which can support healthy eye sight, improve brain function, build a strong immune system and unlock the body’s energy

Stay at Home Mum’s Super Easy Food Favourites 

There are plenty of foods that can provide your children with these nutritional needs, some a lot easier to whip up than others.  Below are some easy sample meals to feed your family every day:

Breakfast Options:

Does Food Affect Children's Behaviour | Stay At Home Mum

Start the day with a serving of whole grains from 2 slices of whole meal toast with spread or a 1/2 cup of whole grain cereal and milk. Add a piece of fruit by adding banana to the cereal, chopping up apple slices on the side or combining 1/2 cup of muesli, yoghurt and strawberries.

Snacks:

Does Food Affect Children's Behaviour | Stay At Home Mum

Snacks is your time to get creative and hide the good stuff among the tasty ingredients. Why not whip up a batch of savoury muffins like Ham and Vegetable muffins? The zucchini slice is another hit in my household. Other great snack options include fruit salad with yoghurt, veggies with hummus or crackers with peanut butter.  Try to include at least one serve of fruit or veggies.

Lunch Ideas:

Does Food Affect Children's Behaviour | Stay At Home Mum

My kid’s staple lunch foods? Whole grain sandwiches with meat and cheese or peanut butter and jam, quesadillas with avocado and cheese or crackers with pumpkin soup. Aim for a serve of veggies, whole grains and dairy.

Dinner Dishes:

Does Food Affect Children's Behaviour | Stay At Home Mum

Dinner for me is all about hidden veggies.

Mix up stir fries, casseroles, pasta dishes, shepherd’s pie and grate carrots and zucchini into the mix. Add some spinach leaves, lentils or chickpeas for extra protein and serve with whole grain rice, pasta or quinoa. Other great dinner options include potatoes or sweet potatoes, fish or poultry dishes. Check out our section on Fast Food Ideas for healthy and easy family favourites.

For more healthy meal planning ideas that provide yours kids with the energy they need without risking bad behaviour, head to our recipes section.

References:

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