"January is popular time of the year to make drastic (an often unnecessary) dietary changes in the hopes of cancelling weeks of overindulgent eating during the festive season. There is no need for that!"- Jasmine Carbon
Nutrition plays a vital role in our mental health. This is no surprise, since good mental health comes from treating our bodies with respect and responding to negative feelings with healthy coping mechanisms. January is popular time of the year to make drastic (an often unnecessary) dietary changes in the hopes of cancelling weeks of overindulgent eating during the festive season. There is no need for that!
A balanced diet of vitamins and minerals, complex carbohydrates, protein and essential fats are all that are needed to keep our moods balanced and our cognitive functions working.
When it comes to children, healthy foods help children feel better about themselves, perform better in school, cope and avoid feelings of sadness. Not only that, but the food choices you make for your family today will affect how your children approach nutrition when they’re older. Carbon Nutrition & Dietetics explains how you can teach your kids healthy eating habits now.
Educate Your Family on Healthy Eating
A systematic review and meta-analysis study found that when children are educated about the importance of nutrition, they’re more likely to make healthy food choices. Even if your child receives nutrition education in school, you should be providing additional encouragement at home. Ask your school for some take-home nutrition activities or find ideas online. Try to engage your children in discussions about the challenges involved in preparing and consuming healthy foods. A wonderful and interactive way to show your children where food comes from is to take them to a local farmers market. Then, get them to ask the farmers questions about how their fruits and veggies are grown.
Make Time for Dinner at The Table
Scheduling family dinners at the table can encourage us to slow down and be mindful while we’re eating. Setting aside the time to prepare a meal and sit down with your family prevents you from reaching for their phone and opening a food delivery app, stopping at a drive-through, or mindlessly overeating in front of the TV. In fact, children who eat dinner with their families consume more fruits, veggies and foods with essential nutrients such as fiber, calcium and iron.
Eating is also a very social activity and a chance to find out how everyone is doing, what people’s plans are for the week and to build relationships which all contribute to positive mental health.
Get Help in The Kitchen
Having trouble getting your kids to explore new, healthy foods? Ask them to help you in the kitchen! According to Heart Research UK, one study found that kids involved in meal prep show an increased interest in nutrition and have a higher preference for fruits and veggies. Cooking also encourages children to try new things and accept new flavours. Assign duties to your kids, like washing produce, adding ingredients to the pot, or reading out the recipe to you. As they get older, you can give them the responsibility of cooking the family meal once per week.
Limit Intake of Ultra-processed Snacks
If you have unhealthy snacks in the house, people are going to eat them. Will power alone may not be enough so just keep those ultra-processed, high sugar, high salt, high fat foods out of the house. Fill your fridge and cupboards with fresh fruits and veggies, dried fruits, nuts and homemade snacks. Find out how to create your own alternatives to unhealthy snacks to keep yourself and children satisfied. Eats Amazing has some ideas including roasted chickpeas and dried fruit.
Eliminate Stress Eating (and Stress!)
We all know that feeling of being overwhelmed, stressed out and frustrated, so we reach for the crisps or a chocolate bar or whatever else is at hand. Usually, we don’t make healthy choices, but that’s the name of the game with stress eating for parents and kids. While it’s best to avoid stress eating altogether, that’s not always an option. Instead, knowing this could happen, keep only healthy snacks at the ready, as well as plenty of water. You can also look for other ways to reduce stress at home to keep overwhelm to a minimum, whether it’s by removing clutter, organizing the house or simply cleaning.
Provide a Variety of Choices
It’s important to give your family choices so they can feel in control of what they eat. This also builds respect between you and your child, as it shows that you trust them to make their own decisions. Keep a variety of healthy snacks in your home so your kid can choose what they want. Ask them their onion on different meals you’ve cooked and what types of ingredients they enjoy the most. You can also get them to help you make the food shop list, encouraging them to look through the food shop flier and pick out healthy, new things to try. You may even like to reward them with a small treat every once in a while.
Complete Their Diet with Multivitamins
Taking a multivitamin daily shouldn’t just be reserved for adults. Children also benefit from multivitamins, as they help fulfill nutrition needs and boost the immune system. If your child isn’t getting enough of a certain vitamin or mineral from their diet, like calcium from milk, multivitamins can help with this. Supplements containing vitamins C and D can help increase your child’s immune system and fight off illness. There are also multivitamins that contain probiotics, which can fuel your child’s gut with good bacteria. If your child is reluctant to take a multivitamin, a chewable or dissolvable version may help.
If getting your family on track toward healthy eating feels like an uphill battle, look at your own diet. One of the best things you can do for your children is set a healthy example for them. Young children are particularly likely to mimic your behaviours and get involved in whatever you enjoy. So, make healthy decisions yourself, and your children will quickly follow suit.
1. Educate and reinforce healthy eating messages
2. Make Time
3. Help in the Kitchen
4. Limit Ultra-processed snacks
5. Eliminate Stress
6. Variety is Key
7. Multivitamin Supplements
Do you need help setting a better eating approach for your children? Maybe you’re not 100% sure if your diet is the best it could be? Then connect with Jasmine Carbon of Carbon Nutrition & Dietetics today! Through her consulting services, she can provide insight and information on how to make better food choices, and she can even help with creating customised meal plans.
Guest Author: Annabelle Harris of elders.center