Add more vegetables to their diet.
95% of Australian children are not getting enough vegetables, so I am going to assume that your child is in the 95%! Don’t try to squeeze their five serves of vegetables into dinner. It just won’t fit! Spread them through the day. If you have a serve at breakfast, a serve at sip and crunch, a serve at lunch, that only leaves 2 serves for dinner. That is so achievable. Lots of the recipes in my online program sneak in veggies, like blueberry and zucchini cookies or sweet potato pancakes for breakfast. You’ll be easily hitting 5 serves per day. Diversity is really important in your veggies. Different vegetables give different benefits. Download my rainbow chart and stick it on the fridge so the kids can get involved.
Cut down the sugar.
This is a hard one, not just for the kids, but for the parents. Sugar is bad for children’s behaviour, bad for their teeth, and bad for their metabolism. Type 2 diabetes is being increasingly seen in children in the last decade, because of poor diets. Set your child up for future health by cutting sugar out of their diet. Parents often tell me they are worried their child won’t have enough energy without sugar in their diet, but this is nothing to worry about. They will be getting lots of carbohydrates from their fruit and vegetables. The other worry parents have is about depriving their child of treats. Children won’t look back on their childhood and think their parents deprived them by not giving them enough sugar. Children value quality time with their parents, so make that a priority, not sugar!
Include some fermented foods in your child’s diet.
Fermented foods are full of good bacteria, so by consuming them, you are giving your child’s gut health an immediate boost. And remember from my article on the gut-brain connection that brain health is absolutely influenced by gut health. If your child hasn’t had fermented foods before, introduce them very slowly, or your child could get a belly ache. If your child tolerates dairy, milk kefir or real yoghurt is a good place to start. If they are dairy free, go for water kefir, sauerkraut juice or sauerkraut. I steer away from kombucha for kids as it is made with tea, therefore contains caffeine. If you make it yourself you can use rooibos tea and make it caffeine free, but make sure you don’t ferment it so much that it becomes alcoholic!
Cut down refined carbohydrates.
A lot of kids exist on a diet that is predominantly refined carbohydrate. Think of the child that has cornflakes with sugar for breakfast, rice crackers for morning tea, a Vegemite sandwich for lunch, a muesli bar for afternoon tea and pasta for dinner. Eating so many refined carbohydrates is bad for your gut bacteria, as they get starved. All the refined carbohydrates are digested high up in their digestive system, and there is nothing left for the gut bacteria in the large intestine to eat. Increase fat and protein in their diet, and replace the refined carbohydrate with fruit and vegetables. My online program has new recipes every week to help you easily make this transition.
Consider reducing or removing gluten.
Lots of people are sensitive to gluten, but they may not realise it! The best way to test is to strictly remove gluten for a month, then reintroduce it and see what happens. When you cut out gluten, you might find that the headaches you had grown accustomed to magically disappear. Or that lingering gym injury is suddenly better. Most people eat so much gluten, they don’t realise that they have inflammation from eating it. Think of it like a windscreen – when the windscreen is dirty, you never notice a bug landing on it. When you clean the windscreen (remove the gluten), you suddenly notice every little bug that lands. ADHD and other health issues are directly related to inflammation.
Cut out the gluten – reduce the inflammation – improve behaviour.
It’s hard to say why we are getting sensitive to gluten, but I have a few theories.
- We eat gluten-containing foods 4-5 times a day, so we have overdosed, and now we are sensitive.
- Grains are heavily sprayed with chemicals, so perhaps it isn’t the gluten we are reacting to, but the agricultural chemicals
- Our gut health has deteriorated so much due to processed food and too much medicine that we don’t have the right gut bacteria to digest it any more
- Grains used to be fermented for 24 hours to make a sourdough bread. Now, for economic reasons, we have sped up the baking process, and there is no fermentation and no pre-digestion of the gluten.
- We also add gluten to lots of foods where it doesn’t belong, just so we can say it contains protein, or to improve the texture.
Cut out additives
Food additives are harmful to human health in general and our kids are particularly sensitive. There is lots of research going back decades about the effect additives have on kids health, particularly behaviour. Some countries are more proactive than Australia and already insist that warnings go on foods containing some colours, to let parents know that their child’s behaviour will be adversely affected if they eat this food. Unfortunately, Australia hasn’t prioritised this, and we consumers are still largely in the dark about the harmful effects of additives. You can learn to scrutinise ingredient lists and ingredient numbers, but I don’t recommend it. Even the additives we think might be ok, may not be ok in the amount we consume them, or when they are combined with other chemicals. The much easier thing to do is to move away from processed food and towards real, whole foods. Then you don’t need to learn about food additives!
Be an advocate for your child.
As a parent, you want to do what is best for your child, but there are barriers such as time and money. I highly recommend my online program “Create cool, calm and cooperative kids” for parents who want to make a positive change to their child’s diet but don’t know where to start. It is very affordable, as you just pay 2 instalments of $99. The modules are delivered to your inbox weekly and contain coaching videos, recipes and handouts. There is even a closed Facebook group where you can ask me questions as you go along. Follow this link to jump onboard…