Did you know that the quality of your diet can affect your mental health? In fact, poor dietary habits alone have increased the risk of depression in adults and across the lifespan. South Africa has seen an escalation in childhood obesity, with around 13% of children under nine years being overweight or obese and more than 50% of adults overweight or obese, meaning that even young people are at risk of mental issue challenges.
Many fail to see the vital part of the cycle, which often goes unmentioned, the link between diet and mental well-being. For parents and caregivers, it is becoming crucial to ensure a healthy and balanced diet that will help with physical and psychological well-being.
Nutrition week is celebrated annually on the 9th – 15th of October to remind and raise awareness to South Africans on the importance of consuming the right foods to stay healthy.
Having a child like Kayden, who is a fussy eater, does not make meal choices easy. I am always trying different things to introduce more foods into his meals. With this being Nutrition Week, I thought that it would be a great for me to share some information I received in a Press Release, to highlight the importance of good food for a good mood.
How choices in food can improve your mood
Once in a while, we may feel uneasy or “hangry” because we haven’t had a meal; however, when it comes to your mood, your food choices and feelings go hand-in-hand more often than you might think. Children are no different as they may throw tantrums because of their bad moods. Fortunately, you and those around you can be happier, healthier, and better energised with each bite, thanks to plenty of good foods that provide mood-boosting benefits.
A balanced breakfast to kick start the day
Making sure that children have a balanced breakfast to start the day can improve their mood, memory, and energy throughout the day. Breakfast should include fruits, porridge, yogurt or peanut butter and healthy fats such as avocado, eggs and nuts, so they get fuel for the day.
Kayden has tried to leave home without having something to eat in the mornings and I have ensured that this does not happen. On some days he has cereal, some days eggs, sometimes a banana or some yogurt. When he leaves home having had something to eat for breakfast, I have peace of mind and this is important to me. So “Mum, I don’t feel like eating, ” or “Mum I’m not hungry” is not negotiable. Breakfast is a must.
Getting him involved in meal choices certainly works, from him choosing items during grocery shopping to actual meal prep.
A healthy gut makes a happy child
Bacteria in your child’s gut plays an important role in their mental and physical well-being. The gut also produces most hormones responsible for balancing our moods, overall well-being, and happiness, which is why gut health is crucial to mood, brain health, and happiness.
Drinking water is key as children may find it difficult to concentrate or think clearly if they don’t drink enough fluids. They might also start to feel constipated if dehydrated, which puts no one in a good mood.
When parents lead by example and are creative with food, they can get their children to eat more fruit and vegetables. Fruit and veggies help children stay physically and mentally healthy. Even just a few different colours of fruits and vegetables per day will ensure that children get a healthy mix of nutrients. Healthy digestion can be achieved by eating apples, beans or fruits with skin.
We have no issues with Kayden drinking water – to be quite honest, I wish he did have some of the “less healthy” stuff – as treats. He enjoys water and does drink Rooibos tea – he won’t drink juices or fizzy drinks or even milkshakes. In winter, he occasionally does enjoy some hot chocolate.
We do have a challenge with the amount and variety of fruit and vegetables he has, so this is work in progress. Even though I know he does not eat certain fruit or vegetables, I continue to add them to his lunches in the hope that he is feeling adventurous enough to try them some day.
A treat can help lift any mood
Whether your little ones are suffering from kiddies’ blues or simply experiencing a dip in morale, getting a boost of happiness is always a welcome feeling. A chocolate treat in small portions is a great way for the brain to release stress and make them feel happier.
Children can meet any challenge that comes their way, but when they are hungry or their body lacks vitamins, it’s hard to be in a good mood. To learn how caregivers can add a little more goodness to children’s diet and feed smart right from the start in a way that suits their lifestyle and budget, visit Nestlé for Healthier Kids on www.n4hk-esar.com.
I know that some or perhaps many parents are upset at my lunchbox options that I share on Kayden’s Instagram: The K Den because I do add some unhealthy items. I do wish that I could only give him healthy foods but we don’t eat healthy all the time, we are not health fanatics. We should be but I’d be lying if I said we are. So why am I even sharing this post with you? It’s not just because it’s Nutrition Week.
Well, I believe we can make some changes. We can and should resort to healthy options where possible. My child’s mental well-being is important to me and every time I order him a unhealthy take-away that he so loves, I feel guilt. I feel guilt because I know that he should not be having it as often as he does.
I’m often torn between him eating some healthy or not eating at all. It’s tough! I know some of you may be reading this and thinking how am I not in a position to enforce healthy eating all the time – trust me when I say, it’s not as easy as it looks when you have a fussy eater. Everything in moderation. It’s a process. His eating habits are not perfect but we are trying. Every child is different, every family is different. Every lifestyle is different. We are doing what works for us.