How Nutrition Can Shape a Child’s Emotional Well-being

What children eat affects not only how fast they develop and learn but as well impacts their mood and overall well-being. Research, in fact, shows that kids who achieve a healthy weight are not only fitter but also better able to learn and are more self-confident. They are also less likely to have low self-esteem. 1, 2

On one hand, undernourished children are more likely to have behaviour problems, struggle in school and have difficulty keeping up in the workplace as adults. While these challenges are affected by more than just one factor, providing a child optimal nutrition has a crucial impact.1

 

Food for the brain

During the first two to three years of life, brain growth is fast and furious, making nutrition critical for cognitive development in children. Research shows that 2-year-olds with stunted growth may have learning difficulties that can linger into their teen years. Without the right brain foods on their plate, your child may fall behind in their development.1

 

Food for good mood

Nutrients like folate, vitamin B6 and choline are necessary to synthesize certain brain chemicals, called neurotransmitters, that regulate mood and memory. An imbalance of neurotransmitters is often associated with mood-related conditions like anxiety and depression.

A diet lacking essential nutrients can also alter the way the body burns fat, carbohydrates and calories, which can lead to them becoming overweight or obese. Staying at an unnatural weight takes an emotional toll, as children who are under or overweight are more likely to experience bullying and depression.1

 

How to start your kids’ healthy eating habits

Here are practices for parents to help their child get the best nutrition so they stand to benefit from all the cognitive and energy benefits that come with eating right.1

 

  1. At meals, offer a mix of your child’s favorites as well as some new foods.
  2. Gently encourage your child to try new foods, but don’t pressure them.
  3. Keep in mind that everyone has foods that they do and don’t like.
  4. If your child refuses what’s on the table, don’t be a short-order cook. Instead, offer a simple alternative such  as a bowl of fortified cereal or a peanut butter sandwich.
  5. Use healthy snacks to fill in nutrient gaps throughout the day.

 

References:

  1. https://www.nutritionnews.abbott/pregnancy-childhood/kids-growth/how-nutrition-can-shape-a-child-s-emotional-well-being/
  2. https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/healthy-weight/very-overweight-children-advice-for-parents/