Holiday is that time when we tend to let go of our usual routine and sometimes forget about the principles of balanced nutrition. Balancing work and the school holiday childcare often results in parents offering their children a quick meal which may contain processed foods or those that are higher in sugar.
This is OK on occasions but in a long run can affect our children’s immunity, weight, and mental wellbeing.
The start of the new school year is a great time to fall back into a healthier eating routine and revisit batch cooking for those who struggle with time!
Sugar and processed food can impact our child’s brain health, everything from cognitive function to concentration can be affected. Studies suggest that consuming sugar over a long period of time can alter the brain’s ability to process and remember information.
Consuming cereal chocolate puffs or a high carbohydrate breakfast don’t provide sufficient nutrients and is likely to be high in refined sugars. Refined sugars enter the blood stream quickly and can lead to rapid changes in blood sugar levels causing a sugar rollercoaster (spikes and dips!)1.
A blood sugar roller coaster can cause fatigue, mood swings, food cravings, irritability, jittery feeling, weakness, headache, and increased thirst. Including plenty of fresh vegetables and fruits, fibre, good quality protein and whole grains in your child’s diet provides more sustainable energy and can help to keep their blood sugar steady.
A good source of protein such as meat, poultry and fish not only help our children to grow but also focus. Protein helps balance blood sugar. Protein also helps to repair vital tissue in the body and is essential for the growth of bones and muscles.
It also plays an important role in the immune function. Some of the amino acids that create neurotransmitters can be made in the body, but others must be derived from protein in our diet.
Neurotransmitters imbalances can affect a child’s behaviour and mood, for example low levels of neurotransmitter serotonin can be associated with impulsive behaviour.
Thus, ensuring that your child has sufficient protein intake during the day is very important.
Eggs are the most versatile source of protein and are easy to incorporate at mealtime. You can include them in your child’s breakfast and even disguise (for example in oat pancakes or porridge) them if your child is not keen on eggs!
VitD – As we approach cooler months, days shorten, and the Sun is in at its lowest angle.
Cold weather during the Autumn and Winter plays an important role in reducing our body’s immunity. Our immune response can become weakened making us more susceptible to colds and infections.
Between October and March, we don’t make enough vitD from the sunlight, therefore Autumn is a good time to start supplementing vitD in your child’s diet. Children aged 1 to 4 years old should be given a daily supplement containing 10 micrograms of vitamin D throughout the year.
Children from the age of 1 year and adults need 10 micrograms of vitamin D a day2.
Great food sources of vitD are oily fish such as: salmon or mackerel, egg yolks, smaller amounts are also found in beef liver and fortified foods such as milk and dairy products.
Probiotics – studies suggest that beneficial bacteria found in some probiotic foods such as fermented dairy products (kefir) and fermented vegetables such as sauerkraut, kimchi and kombucha can have many health benefits which includes improved digestion and stronger immunity. Although many children don’t like the sour’y taste of probiotic foods – beneficial bacteria is crucial to support your child’s immune system.
There are freeze dried probiotics which can be added to foods or taken orally if your child doesn’t like the taste of fermented foods. It has been reported that approximately 70% of the immune function from our entire immune system is located in the gut, fending off pathogenic invaders and preventing infections.
Studies show that orally administered probiotics in children may have preventative effects against the common cold3.
Fish oil – Over 60% of the brain is consists of fat and the omega-3 fatty acid DHA makes up around 10-15% of this. DHA (Dehydroepiandrosterone – androstenolone) in particular is recognised as essential for healthy brain function, helping to improve membrane fluidity, which means that nerve impulses, or messages, are transmitted more effectively.
DHA has been shown to improve learning, verbal learning ability, mood, memory and concentration.
Although It can be very difficult to encourage our children to eat enough oily fish in their diet due to its smell and taste, supplementing Omega 3 oil can be a useful option for supporting their brain health.
Some studies show that Omega 3 may also have a positive affect on children with ADHD and other mood disorders 4/5.
- medlineplus.gov/ency/article/ 002426.htm
- nhs.uk/conditions/vitamins-and- minerals/vitamin-d/
- optibacprobiotics.com/uk/learning- lab/in-depth/childrens- health/childhood-probiotics
• Magdalena Marvell is a Nutritional Practitioner and Founder of the Persea Clinic which helps support clients who want to optimise their health in areas such as gut health, hormonal balance, skin conditions, weight management, family nutrition. To find out more about her work please visit www.persea.clinic.