Putting my parent hat on, I’ve got to say, raising kids can be HARD, with a capital H. There are many reasons for this, and at times, I find it helpful to just chat with other parents and realize I am not alone in that feeling, as well as get a few new strategies on how to handle certain situations. Community is so important when raising kids. If you don’t have kids, maybe connect with families you know, to be part of their community. I am sure they may have something they could use help with. Kids are also SOOOO rewarding and fun and amazing, so less time spent in frustration, the better :).
I am doing a talk for parents on “How to get my kids to eat better” at the Parenting 101 Event on Feb 8th and 9th in Kelowna at the Coast Capri. Anyone can register and it has a variety of speakers and content, which is sure to fit into any area of parenting that parents may feel a need for support with.
So, with my mind focused on information for helping families to help their kids eat better, and thus feel better, I’m going to share some of the nuggets that I have learned and found to be helpful for most families I work with, and my own family.
Babies, sleepless nights, teens, more sleepless nights… And in between those 2 ages, there are, ups and downs. The downs are the hard parts - school issues, illnesses, injuries, sad times/mood swings, coping issues, hormonal imbalances, conflicts with devices, and often just plain battles of will. Those areas can be improved upon by what and how we eat as a family.1
Most families I work with, there are 3 main areas of concern for kids:
Focus (school, learning, sports, home)
Behaviour (mood swings, anxiety, depression, hyper)
Pain (head, tummy, muscles)
If there was a way to reduce any (or all!) 3 of those areas of challenges, how could that impact the job of parenting? I’d say a pretty big impact, likely saving you time, worry, and even money. Investing in kitchen and food time can save you time in other areas. It may take some work, but the investment is worth it! Especially when you think of long term health, for everyone.
Why is this important? Currently, 1 in 2 children have a chronic (more than 12 months) health condition. These include Asthma, Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes, Epilepsy/Seizures, Heart problems, Allergic conditions, Learning disabilities/Hyperactivity, Sinus/Ear infections, Obesity, etc. In fact, an article regarding chronic health conditions in children found that 1 in 5 have Allergies, 1 in 6 have Developmental delays, and 1 in 68 have Autism.2
Chronic health conditions - these limit schooling, activities, and required medicine, special services or equipment. Big challenges. However, many health issues can be improved with changes to the foods we eat.
Where everyone is at in this is different. It’s not about being perfect or worried about being judged. There is NO perfect. We do the best we can with what we know and our resources. Let’s see where we can make small tweaks because any small step is a step forward.
What can you do? There are 2 part to this to start in general:
The first part is that there are “foods” that aren’t really good for anyone. These are the ones to remove or limit. Processed, refined, additives, colours, sugars, fried, trans fats, chemicals, etc. This is the junk that is not actual food. This can be hard as these foods were “made” to taste good. However, they are far from healthy and many negative symptoms of behaviour and mood and pain can stem from these foods.
The second part is looking at for whole foods to make sure you all get lots of veggies, fruit, quality meats/fish/eggs, water, good fats, legumes, dairy, nuts and seeds, and whole grains. The closer to the source of how the food were grown or raised, the better. Now, some of these whole foods do not work well for some, or may not be tolerated, that is why seeing what foods feel right for each person is needed and where the food journal is helpful. There can be some issues with certain compounds in healthy foods, like oxalates, salicylates, amines, phenols, as well as gluten or dairy, even if healthy options. Looking at symptoms can help us see if there could be some benefit to trying changes to diet.
It can be hard to have that food fight where you know what food is better for health, but not easy to change as foods that are made to taste good lights up the reward centres in our brain, so they make us feel good, for a short time.
I have seen it many times, when kids are addicted to certain types of processed foods, parents are certain they can’t add in healthy options. As you wean off, the healthy foods become more enjoyable. There are ways to help support this transition.
Ideas for now….
Offer new foods many times - up to 15 times, or more, it can take. Ask that just one bite is tried when offered and offer it again in a week or so.
You may not believe this BUT… Your Kids WANT to be like you. Start today with what you want them to follow, be their role model. Maybe you have some health or food issues you want to resolve. Talk about it and take action. Our own health can improve when we make changes for our kids and apply those changes ourselves. This is a great side effect.
“See and do” - if they see the use or need for drive thru or fast food meals vs. cooking in the kitchen, that can become a learned response. Instead, plan out the week to know when quick meals are needed to take with you or have ready so that needing a drive thru or fast food becomes less.
Prioritizing simple meals for making them from scratch and having kids help - pick recipe, help with groceries, prepping the meal, and cooking.
Create a “Our greatest recipes” binder to hold recipes that you have made and enjoyed and would love to make again. Make notes on the pages if you think changes are needed for your family.
We have lots of cook books so when I find a recipe in one and we love it, I photo copy it so that it ends up in our “Good ones” binder. Otherwise, I would never find it again. We’ve made many recipes from cookbooks and have forgotten about them before I started to photo copy once we tried them and found ones we wanted to make again. Only AMAZING recipes should make it into that binder. Just ok should NOT end up in there. Find recipes that make you excited to eat :).
I will continue next week with more information and specifics on foods related to mood and behaviour symptoms.
1. Study details:
Adams, J.B.; Audhya, T.; Geis, E.; Gehn, E.; Fimbres, V.; Pollard, E.L.; Mitchell, J.; Ingram, J.; Hellmers, R.; Laake, D.; Matthews, J.S.; Li, K.; Naviaux, J.C.; Naviaux, R.K.; Adams, R.L.; Coleman, D.M.; Quig, D.W. Comprehensive Nutritional and Dietary Intervention for Autism Spectrum Disorder—A Randomized, Controlled 12-Month Trial. Nutrients 2018, 10, 369.
A very recent study about the improvements in autism symptoms (which includes behaviour and mood and gut issues).
Link to the study and summary:
2. Van Cleave, J., Gortmaker, S. L., & Perrin, J. M. (2010). Dynamics of obesity and chronic health conditions among children and youth. Jana, 303(7), 623-630.