Feeding Good Behavior
by Fara Murata
We all know that eating right is important, but why is it so hard? When our children are young we strive to give them the best -- then they start school. And the pace is hectic.
School starts early, and we’re rushed to get the children up and to get breakfast. Who has time to make anything? Grabbing something from a box is easier, and it can be eaten it in the car. Let’s face it, quick food isn’t the healthiest, but it gets the job done. Look in your pantry and see how many things you serve from a box. Every mom I talk to has good intentions, she buys the boxes that say “organic” or “no sugar added.” That’s good, right? But convenience food has become the norm of our society.
What your children are eating will determine their moods and behaviors. Do they get protein, fruits or vegetables each day? What do they eat for lunch? When you pick them up from school are they irritable and fighting? Can they do their homework? When parents complain about afternoons being the worst time of day, they need to ask, when was the last time my child ate? And, what did he or she eat?
Many children eat lunch at school around 11 a.m., so without a snack that means it‘s been about four hours since they last ate. You might even feel the same way. You’ve been running all day, maybe forgot to eat lunch or you didn’t have time for a snack. And now everyone in the car is crabby. You’re all depleted -- physically and emotionally.
When you haven’t eaten for few hours, your blood sugars are low and your brain is not being supported. Food increases blood sugar levels that give us energy. But food also increases chemicals in the brain to support good mood. Serotonin is a feel-good chemical that keeps us from feeling down; it also helps children have better behavior. Sugar and protein are foods that increase serotonin. Sugar, or simple carbohydrates, causes serotonin to increase quickly but it runs out quickly too. Protein sustains serotonin for a longer period.
Sadly, we don’t eat enough protein, and we certainly don’t choose it for snacks. Providing protein at every meal, and for snacks, is a great way to set your children up for success. Your children will behave better, listen better and will perform better in school. And you will be happier. The extra time it takes will be worth it.
Involving your children in preparing food for meals and snacks is fun, and they will be more likely to eat what they help make. Breakfast burritos are good for any time of the day. Bagging your own snacks with nuts, dried fruit and whole grain cereal are a must — the children will love it. Get out of the boxes and watch your children’s behavior improve. Feed good behavior with good food.
Fara Murata has worked for 20 years as a social worker and focuses her private practice in Colorado on nutrition to help clients with behavior and mental health issues. She’s the mother of two and grandmother of three.