The study of Nutritional Psychiatry is demonstrating that what you eat impacts how you feel. If you have a child that struggles with anxiety, depression, behavioural ups and downs and concentration or focus issues then getting them eating a good mood diet needs to be a priority. It will help improve their mental health. A simple rule to apply without complicating things is to ensure they are eating a whole food based diet at least 80% of the time. This means whole grains, legumes, fruit, vegetables, nuts and seeds all need to feature in some combination most days.
For more guidance on what should feature in your child’s diet aim to:
Eat a rainbow
Eat as many different colours and types of vegetables as you can to get the right amount of fibre into your daily diet to fuel gut bacteria. The short chain fatty acids they create play a crucial role in helping us produce important neurotransmitters like serotonin, GABA and dopamine
Eat legumes daily
Lentils, chickpeas and black beans are all high in fibre and very important for fuelling gut bacteria to play a big role in balanced mood
Eat fermented foods
Drinking kefir or kombucha is an easy way to get good bacteria into little tummies. Eating pickles and sauerkraut also help improve the gut microbiome as they contain beneficial bacteria to help populate the gut.
Ensure you eat raw nuts and seeds daily
The monounsaturated fats in nuts and seeds help improve brain health
Eat fish often
Aim for two to three serves a week of wild caught oily fish to fuel brain health with anti-inflammatory polyunsaturated fats. This includes salmon, mackerel, anchovies and sardines. If your kids are not fans of strong flavoured fish then go for mild flavoured white firm flesh fish. It’s all beneficial.
Eat whole grains daily
Whole grains are an important source of fibre and nutrients. Focus on having more coloured grains like brown, red and black rice, oats and tri-coloured quinoa. Oat porridge or bircher muesli is a good way to start the day.
More good monounsaturated fats to help with maintaining good mood. The human brain is nearly 60% fat. The type of fats you eat determine how well it will work. Olive oil and extra virgin olive oil are in the good category.
Reduce your intake of red meat, processed meat, added sugars, sugar sweetened drinks, trans fats and sodium. Poor quality diet has been found to be a direct cause of mental ill health in young people. These foods are pro-inflammatory and low in nutrition and fibre and are to be eaten less often.