Have you noticed how nutrition can impact your energy? Your mood? Your mental focus? As a parent of a young child, I notice how my son’s nutrition does impact his performance and concentration at school. I have been teaching him about processed foods and refined sugars since he was a toddler. After his first week in kindergarten, I remember him telling me he was surprised how many children had refined sugars in their lunchbox. I used this as a teaching opportunity to explain that not many kids are aware of nutrition as much as he is. To be honest, it was easier to influence his nutrition when he was younger as I find it is getting more challenging as he gets older and is exposed to more children and activities. Processed foods and sugars are ubiquitous in our society. Even food condiments are elevated in sugars!
Teaching our children about healthy nutrition needs to start at a young age, but I understand many caregivers may not have the knowledge about this themselves. Over the past decade, I have seen many children in my practice. Focusing on their nutrition is an important component to the treatment plan. I am seeing more children struggling with ADHD, ADD, anxiety, and dysregulated nervous systems. I understand there are multiple facets to these diagnoses, however, the child’s diet can have an impact on their behaviour. As processed foods are becoming more readily available and we are eating fewer whole foods, I am noticing there are more children struggling with their behaviour and focus.
We are also living in a more sedentary world where children are spending more time on screens and less time playing outside than in past generations. Combining the lack of fresh air and movement with a more processed food diet is impacting their overall health.
Some of the challenges affecting caregivers to offer nutrient-dense foods to their children are the lack of knowledge on nutrition, financial struggles, cultural background as well as lack of time to prepare meals. I recognize many kids are enrolled in extracurricular activities, which leads to a fast-paced life and a lack of time to prepare nutritious meals. My son is involved with hockey, which keeps us busy! I understand how it is challenging to always have healthy food readily available on those busy days.
Here are some healthy tips to start limiting processed foods and refined sugars in your child’s diet:
Have fresh fruits and vegetables readily available to eat.
Have healthy protein options for snacks or lunches such as hummus, nut/seed butter, nuts, seeds, hard boiled eggs, sugar free yogourt, cheese or cooked meat.
Consider meal prepping for the week or batch cooking and freezing meals.
Replace juice, sports drinks, and pop with water. This is a simple way to eliminate excess sugars in your child’s diet.
Decrease candy in your household.
Notice the grams of refined sugars in your processed foods and talk about it with your child.
Like most school-aged children, my son brings his lunch to school every day. There is always fresh fruits, vegetables, a protein, and carbs. I use a lot of allergen-free snack options, and lately, they are often not home-made due to my time restrictions. However, I am choosing some that are low in sugars and do not contain colours or dyes.
If you are overwhelmed as a caregiver with your child’s nutrition or noticing your child is struggling at school, consider working with a licensed Naturopathic Doctor who can provide guidance to improve their diet. I believe in realistic treatment plans as I am a busy working mom myself, and I know it takes time and energy to implement change. I encourage you to talk about healthy eating with your child, involve them in meal prepping, and bring them grocery shopping. Improving your own diet and relationship to foods will also have a positive impact on your child’s nutrition.