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4 ways food influences kids’ mood and behavior

We all know food provides the nutrients growing bodies need to thrive. But you may be surprised to know that the food we choose to feed our children can impact their minds, too – specifically, their behavior and mood.

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By Lesley Young

The good news is that there are more healthy food options than ever to help our children feel their best. Here are few easy ways to support your child’s powers of concentration and mood with diet.

Choose foods free from additives
If you’ve ever taken your child to a birthday party, you’ve probably seen the impact some foods can have on behavior. But it’s not just the sugar that can trigger post-party tantrums. Research shows the additives put in many processed and packaged foods is a major cause disruptive behavior in kids.

In a study published in medical journal The Lancet, children given a drink with artificial additives like colorants and preservatives became more inattentive, impulsive and hyperactive than children given the placebo. Learning to read food labels is a great way to make healthier choices at the grocery store.

Opt for foods with slow-releasing sugars
Our brains are powered by sugars. However when you eat too much food containing fast-release sugars, like white rice, white bread, and junk food, you may feel hyperactive or find it hard to concentrate. The same is true for kids. Try to choose more slow-release sugar foods including oats, brown rice, whole wheat pasta, brown bread and vegetables.

Tip: Combine carbohydrates with protein, like goat milk with cereal or yogurt with fruit: it slows the absorption of sugars.

Eat more fish (or fish oil)
Omega-3 fatty acids, the kind you get from eating fish, are essential for heart health. More recently, the amount of a child’s blood levels of omega-3 fatty acids was shown to predict how well he or she was able to concentrate and learn. This study showed a direct link between omega-3 fatty acid supplementation and improved reading and spelling progress, and reduced disruptive behavior.

The Food and Drug Administration suggests two to three servings of low-mercury fish – salmon, shrimp, pollock, light canned tuna, tilapia, catfish or cod – a week for young children. This works out to about three to five ounces a week for children under six.

Tip: If you can’t get them to eat fish, try a made-for-kids omega-3 liquid supplement (easily hidden into smoothies!).

Ensure adequate intakes of iron and zinc
Dr. Irena Buka, a Canadian pediatrician, says that deficiencies in iron and zinc have been linked to hyperactive behavior in children. Cereal and milk products often contain iron and zinc, and goat milk aids in mineral metabolization, especially of iron.

In addition to ensuring children enjoy plenty of fresh food and get lots of love, these simple tips are good ways to encourage positive behavior and mood for the whole family.

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