(For one of our first guest posts ever here at The Journal, we are pleased to present Fara Murata! Feel free to welcome her by leaving a comment or two, and make sure to read until the very end for a special bonus feature!)
Feeding Good Behavior
By Fara Murata
We all know that eating right is important, but why is it so hard? When our children are infants we strive to give them the best–then life gets hectic.
The day starts early and we’re rushed to get the children up and get breakfast. Who has time to make anything? Grabbing something from a box is easier and it can be eaten 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 out of 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? Convenience food has become the norm of our society.
What most people don’t understand is that what their children eat determines their moods and behaviors. Do they get protein, fruits, or vegetables for breakfast? What do they get for lunch? Are they irritable and fighting? 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 she eat?
Many children eat lunch around 11:00 a.m., so without a snack that means by 3:00 p.m. they will be driving you crazy. You might even feel irritable and crabby. You’ve been running all day, maybe forgot to eat lunch, you certainly didn’t have time for a snack, and now everyone is crabby. You’re all depleted–physically and emotionally. Adults should eat a little something every three to four hours and children every two to three hours.
If you haven’t eaten in the last few hours your blood sugars are low and your brain is not being supported. Most of us know that food increases blood sugar levels that give us energy, but it also increases chemicals in the brain to support good mood.
Serotonin is a feel good chemical that keeps us from being 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 of time. 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. Removing all sugary snacks and food is impossible, but decreasing them will help maintain the blood sugar and serotonin balance. Your children will have better behavior, will listen better, will be able to perform better on school tasks, and you will be happier. The extra time it takes will be worth it.
Reading labels can be helpful in making good choices. Four grams of sugar equals one teaspoon, so if your cereal has 23 grams it is the same as putting six teaspoons of sugar on their food! The ingredients listed on the label are in order of how much is in the food, so if sugar or high fructose corn syrup is listed in the first five ingredients you’ll know that food is mostly sugar. Fruit, honey, and Agave will add to the sugar grams, but they are good sugars and won’t spike blood sugar levels, which can lead to poor behavior.
Involving your children in preparing food for meals and snacks is fun and they will be more likely to eat what they help make. This can be a good way to transition your children into choosing better food. Some great snacks are breakfast burritos, egg muffins, cheese Quesadillas, and turkey rolled up with cheese. These are better choices for breakfast and snacks and children can help prepare them.
Creating a snack drawer in the pantry and refrigerator with food that can be eaten without asking for permission will help create good habits for the whole family. Bagging your own snacks with nuts, 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. Are you willing to take the extra time and effort to improve your family’s health and mood? As parents, we can choose to feed good behavior with good food.
Readers: Check out the “Freebies” tab up at the top of this page for a special Egg Muffin recipe from Fara!
Fara Murata is the mother of two and grandmother of three. She and her husband share a home with her disabled parents and often have the whole family of 20 over. Understanding and implementing nutrition in her family’s diet has been important to changing their health. Fara also uses nutrition counseling in her private practice as a Social Worker to help children and families make positive changes. Follow Fara Murata on Facebook or her website http://www.faramurata.com