Real food improves children’s behaviour
My adventures in real food began when my youngest son was about three. His behaviour had become out of control and erratic. We didn’t eat a lot of processed, unhealthy food or serve diet sodas. I cooked at home regularly but it became obvious that something was wrong.
After a lot of trial and error, we figured out that artificial colours seemed to be the culprit. The “healthy” food for kids we served, maybe wasn’t as healthy as we thought. Turns out the yogurt we offered him was tinted with dye, as was the bottled salad dressing we served with leafy green salads.
Scientific Proof That Food Impacts a Child’s Behavior:
“Food dyes, synthesized originally from coal tar and now petroleum, have long been controversial. Many dyes have been banned because of their adverse effects on laboratory animals. This report finds that many of the nine currently approved dyes raise health concerns.” – Center for Science and Public Interest
“Irritability, temper outbursts, oppositional defiance, restlessness and difficulty falling asleep are the main behavioral effects of additives. But parents rarely realize that food chemicals can be associated with many other effects including arguing with siblings, making silly noises, speech delay, anxiety, depression or difficulty concentrating. Additive-free children are generally calmer, happier and more cooperative. Rashes, headaches, bed-wetting, stomach aches, sneaky poos, constipation or asthma can also be a problem.” – Food Matters
An unexpected bonus
While I initially shifted away from packaged foods from the grocery store in order to keep my son’s behavior in check, I eventually became more aware of the environmental impact of processed foods, too.
Making our own homemade versions of some of our favorite foods and cooking at home meant that we were using fewer disposable plastic containers and generating much less trash. Win, win!
Know your weak spots
The truth is, fast food is a quick fix. Processed foods are convenient for busy families. And we’re all busy, right? (It’s easy to see how these ready-made foods have taken hold of our mealtimes!) But with just a little awareness, I managed to break the processed food habit, and you can, too.
Take a look at your shopping cart the next time you buy groceries. What are you relying on the most?
Is it boxed granola bars for school lunches?
Prepared dinners because you’re swamped after work and short on time to cook?
Knowing your processed food “Kryptonite” allows you to tackle the biggest culprit. Then you can figure out a plan for replacing the packaged items you rely on regularly with whole food options.
If homemade dinners are a struggle for you, you might implement meal planning, prep-ahead techniques, or bulk cooking so that you don’t find yourself falling back on frozen dinners when time is short. If filling the kids’ lunchbox (or your own!) is the biggest struggle, try making a big batch of healthy muffins and freezing them.
5 tips for ditching processed foods
There are so many ways to embrace real food that’s free of high fructose corn syrup, added sugar, and trans fats — these are just a few tips for getting started.
If you find that your family uses crumbled ground beef regularly, instead of browning it for every meal, cook up a big batch and freeze it in portions.
The same thing goes for cooking chicken: cube it, brown it and toss it in the freezer for use in quick stir-fries, fried rice, or chicken burritos.
Your meals will come together more quickly, making it easier to say “no” to ready-made options.
While you have the pots and pans out, you might as well make twice as much.
Use those planned leftovers for lunches during the week or freeze them and you’ll have a meal ready to go for busy weeknights.
Learn to love eggs.
Eggs are a powerhouse of nutrients, they’re filling, they’re inexpensive, and you can get a pan of scrambled eggs on the table in about ten minutes. Serve them up with sliced fresh fruit or vegetables and you have a complete meal.
Related: This egg dish is SO simple to make & to grab/go.
I know this is a difficult one! We’re a nation of snackers, aren’t we? Unfortunately, this often means packaged and processed foods like crackers, cookies, chips, and candy.
Instead, eat healthily. Eat filling meals to keep between-meal hunger pangs at bay. If you must, try keeping dried fruit, Greek yogurt, and frozen fruit on hand for the kids to eat as healthy snacks.
Grow your own food.
If you’ve never grown a garden before, growing some herbs on the windowsill or re-growing green onions from those you picked up at the market is a great place to start.
Kids are fascinated by the idea of growing their own food and will be more likely to eat a homegrown carrot than one they have no connection with. While this may not directly cut processed food, it may be just the inspiration you need to start incorporating more fresh produce in your diet.
And hey, who knows? It may inspire you to plant even more food!
Take it one step at a time
Instead of the daily kid-favorite peanut butter and jelly sandwich on white bread, encourage your child to eat something different once in a while so they get a variety of nutrients and flavors.
The changes I’ve made over the years have happened incrementally — and in fact, are still happening. We incorporate highly nutritious sweet potatoes into our meals more often now. We check ingredients lists on jars to make sure they’re pronounceable. Over the years we even began making our own condiments like mayonnaise, mustard, and sour cream at home.
Rome wasn’t built in a day, as they say. A slow shift to healthier foods will be more sustainable and you’ll be more likely to stick with those changes in the long term.
This content was originally published here.