Certain food-like products such as artificial colorings and additives found in most conventional kid's snacks have been linked to ADHD and behavioral issues in children. Diets high in refined sugars also promote energy peaks and crashes that can lead to temper tantrums and loss of focus at home and in the classroom. Avoiding those foods will go a long way towards creating healthy, happy kids, but incorporating the three key nutrients outlined below will help make them super-powered.
This nutrient is an essential fatty acid, which means that it must be eaten because our bodies cannot make it. DHA is especially important for kids because studies have shown that lower plasma levels of this oil are associated with poorer reading ability and working memory performance. It has also been associated with improved focus in class and less oppositional behavior, as rated by teachers and parents.
Some great dietary sources include:
- Salmon, mackerel and sardines
- Hemp seeds/oil and flax seeds/oil
- Almonds and walnuts
If you have a hard time getting your wee ones to eat these foods, there are some wonderful, high-quality fish oils designed for kids that are available at most health food stores.
A low level of this vitamin in the blood is linked to decreased cognitive function and lowered immunity. In fact, one study shows that supplementing school-aged children with vitamin D3 helped prevent them from developing the seasonal flu. In the summer, our bodies can create this vitamin through smart sun exposure. However, if you live in the northern hemisphere, your body cannot make this crucial nutrient during the winter months.
Try boosting your vitamin D levels by incorporating these foods into the diet:
- Pastured eggs
- Shiitake mushrooms
To err on the side of caution, you may want to consider supplementing throughout the winter because it can be quite difficult to get adequate amounts of this important vitamin from diet alone. You can often find products for kids that combine fish oil and vitamin D to make supplementing that much easier.
Like adults, children should start their days with balanced blood sugar so that they can stay focused and energized. Most kids' foods and cereals are distinctly devoid of protein and chock full of processed sugars, artificial colors, and preservatives –– none of which contribute to health. Ensure that each meal provides some form of protein to stabilize energy and promote healthy growth.
Healthy sources of protein include:
- Lentils, beans, and legumes
- Free-range and organic poultry and eggs
- Grass-fed, organic, and humanely raised beef, pork, and bison
- Organic dairy
- Nuts and seeds
If you look around on the web (and MindBodyGreen!), you'll be able to find tons of kid-friendly, protein-rich breakfast ideas. You can try natural, full-fat yogurts sweetened with honey or maple syrup and topped with nuts, seeds, and berries for a tasty breakfast, whip up a chocolate smoothie using a vegan protein powder or hemp hearts, and send homemade granola bars for snacks.
By avoiding artificial colors, flavors, and preservatives, and adding the three nutrients above to your little one's diet, you'll be providing them with all the building blocks necessary to create a healthy body, a focused mind, and a balanced temperament.
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