The majority of parents have dealt with temper tantrums, mood changes, and all the other things that come with raising children. In minutes, a child can go from being excited to sulky to happy to argumentative.
Every parent, at one time or another, has used food without a second thought to bribe, calm, and lift a child’s spirits. Why do we do this unconsciously, and what is the role of food in a child’s mood?
Emotions and food are intrinsically linked. Food is an essential need for survival. Eating is, therefore, a primal instinct, and its absence can lead to severe psychological and physical consequences. Have you ever felt “hangry”? It’s a combination of “hungry” and “angry” and is used to describe a bad mood and irritability caused by hunger.
The connection between food and mood
Food can trigger powerful emotions on a physiologic level. Food is also often associated with memories and past experiences, which can trigger many emotions. Food can also affect mood, energy, and concentration. Together, these factors make food a powerful tool to express, understand, and manage emotions.
It is, therefore, possible to manage the mood of a child using food. The right nutrition at the right moment can boost their energy and improve their air, focus, and mental well-being.
“Mood Hacking” your child’s diet
Remove mood-depleting food from your child’s diet and replace it with mood-lifting ones.
The Mood Depleters
- Sweets, cakes, cookies, and other baked goods are high in sugar and saturated fats.
- Foods like sweet buns, sweet chips, nankeens, and other processed foods that are ready-to-fry and eaten as savory bites.
- Artificial colors and flavors are found in cakes, candies, fruit juice powders, and carbonated beverages.
According to studies, diets that are high in sugar, processed foods, saturated fats, artificial colors and flavors, and food with artificial colors and flavors can increase aggression, restlessness, and attention deficit. Sugary foods can lead to sugar crashes and mood swings.
A diet high in fruit, vegetables, and fiber has been associated with improved mood, mental well-being, and cognitive function.
The Mood Lifters
01. Colourful fruits and vegetables
The phytochemicals in this food group can also boost your mood. They keep you full, and they are good for your tummy.
Lutein, a carotenoid, is found in dark greens. Some fruits, like oranges and Kiwis, can help improve moods and reduce anxiety and depression.
ii. Beta-carotene, another carotenoid, is found in orange or yellow fruits and vegetables such as carrots, sweet potatoes, and other root vegetables. It may reduce depression and promote positive mood.
iii. Quercetin, also known as flavonoids, is found in apples, onions, kale, and cranberries. Quercetin has been shown to reduce anxiety and improve mood in studies.
02. Regular balanced meals with nutritious snacks
A balanced diet with a variety of nutrients will help you tick all the boxes. Omega-3 fatty acids found in flaxseeds, walnuts, chia seeds, and fatty fish can reduce depression. Vitamin B6 also helps regulate sleep, improve alertness, and reduce fatigue. This vitamin is found in oats, wheat germ, and bananas. Iron is necessary for energy production, mood stability, and relaxation. Magnesium, found in dark green leafy vegetables, dals, and nuts, helps to relax the body and mind.
03. Fermented foods
There is a gut feeling!! Recent research indicates that the gut plays a major role in mental health. Please keep your child’s heart healthy by including fermented food like buttermilk and curd in their diet.
It is one of the best ways to lift your mood. An angry kid may just be thirsty. Children are notorious for drinking insufficient fluids. A glass of water can help calm a child who is being cranky.
What they eat is not the only thing that matters.
Children’s emotional intelligence and healthy eating habits are largely dependent on their parents and caregivers.
- Make food a happy memory for your children.
- Avoid topics that could cause conflict or arguments at the table.
- Celebrate healthy foods
- Include kids in the preparation of small dishes that they will be proud to serve, such as fruit or vegetable salads or fruit popsicles.
- Never use ice cream, chocolate, or cake to reward good behavior. Also, never deprive your child of food as punishment for bad behavior.
- Make them move! After the pandemic, many children enjoy playing online games. Offline is better. A child’s mental health can be improved by physical activity. Their bodies moving can reduce stress, improve mood, and help them manage and control their emotions.
Parents should also be on the lookout for signs and symptoms such as changes in eating, sleeping, or behavior patterns. It’s important to consult a mental health professional if you suspect that your child is suffering from depression.