Sunday, 4 March 2018


Anxiety and Food - is there a link?
Does the food we eat make us more anxious or do we eat certain foods because we're anxious? Is this a natural behaviour that evolved from survival 'in the wild' where we needed high calorie foods for energy to escape danger? These questions were explored through a study by Murphy and Mercer article published in UK completed in 2013. The results indicated the following:
  • What a mother eats during pregnancy and while breast feeding can impact upon the child's mood and later food choices
  • We tend to be attracted to certain types of foods when we are anxious. This may seem to be a natural response in our bodies. In the natural environment where we might be in danger it would be helpful, but in our modern environment where we are mostly inactive and not in immediate threat of danger, these foods just make us fat.
  • Anxious people may be born with that tendency and their food choices may reflect this
  • It is possible for Children conceived and breast fed with high caloric foods such as high in sugar and saturated fats to change their dietary habits later in life
  • Eating to feel better sets up a cycle that may be difficult to break away from. The more we eat of these foods, the more we want and feel we need them.
Treats or Traps?
Many parents feel it is a battle to get their children to eat fruits and particularly vegetables, while at the same time don't want them to 'miss out on treats like the rest of the family.' From the above research it would seem that the diet of the mother is crucial in the process of establishing healthy food choices in your child simply because foods and the body's response are chemical processes that affect the child connected to her body through either being in utero or breast feeding. So,
  • Model good food choices yourself. Your children copy you.
  • Don't give your young child chocolate, sugary drinks, potato crisps, deep fried foods AT ALL while they are developing their 'taste buds'. It takes a child up to 15 goes to become used to a new flavour. Persist! Don't have alternatives in the cupboard.
  • Children have brand new taste buds, naturally sensitive to even the subtlest flavours. There is NO NEED to give them spicy, sugary, salty foods to keep them 'happy'. For a snack, celery sticks, carrot sticks, cheese cubes, apple slices, banana etc to chew on and WATER to drink. I shudder when I see babies and toddlers in prams with a bottle full of Coke or fruit juice. There is absolutely no need for either. You are setting them up for a lifetime of struggle with their weight and nutrition!
  • When we want a treat or feel depressed a pick-me-up may well be in order. But keep it to a SMALL AMOUNT.
sliced apple, rye bread, celery sticks with cream cheese, eggplant (aubergine) dip, salami, sweet corn, swiss cheese slices

Other considerations
Diets low in Magnesium can increase anxiety related behaviours. The Harvard Medical School health blog has some great tips here
  • Keep meals regular. If you skip meals your blood sugar level drops, making you feel jittery and anxious
  • There is a definite link between gut health and mental health. Probiotics may also help anxiety, as they help gut health, which impacts greatly upon mental health.
  • Choose complex, unprocessed carbs such as whole grains and starchy vegies which take longer to digest. These keep you calmer for longer.
  • Limit alcohol and caffeine. These alter your mood artificially and can easily be overused, worsening the problem.
  • Legumes, nuts, seeds and whole grains, also spinach have lots of Magnesium

Other foods which will help reduce anxiety and improve mental health 
Some foods actually increase dopamine and serotonin levels in the body, helping you feel better!
  • Foods rich in zinc such as oysters, cashews, liver, beef, and egg yolks have been linked to lowered anxiety.
  •  Asparagus, avocado and almonds
  • pickles, sauerkraut and kefir
  • fatty fish such as wild Alaskan salmon

Foods designated as high in antioxidants also help reduce anxiety
  • Beans: Dried small red, Pinto, black, red kidney
  • Fruits: Apples (Gala, Granny Smith, Red Delicious), prunes, sweet cherries, plums, black plums
  • Berries: Blackberries, strawberries, cranberries, raspberries, blueberries
  • Nuts: Walnuts, pecans
  • Vegetables: Artichokes, kale, spinach, beets, broccoli
  • Spices with both antioxidant and anti-anxiety properties include turmeric (containing the active ingredient curcumin) and ginger.
  • dark chocolate, in small amounts!
  • eggs
  • green tea

Sleep issues?
According to this article, avoid proteins such as chicken, cheese and turkey at bedtime. They actually interfere with the body's production of tryptohpan, which winds down your brain for sleep. Carbs, on the other hand, make you sleepy.

There are countless websites with recipes you can try, simple things to put in the lunchbox. Its just a case of reaching for the vegetable peeler instead of the packet of chips.

Habits! That's what we're trying to form.
And healthy ones, at that.

For more ideas on simple, quick meals for kids click here

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