Kids Nutritionist Shelley explains the link between our children’s food consumption, their mood and emotional regulation. As well as including a list of delicious mood boosting foods for your child’s lunchbox when school starts back!
Have you ever felt “hangry?” Hungry + Angry – or find you are overreacting or feeling emotionally unstable after a long day and a forgotten lunch? This is because of the link between the food we eat and our moods.
When our blood sugar levels dip, we can often feel our mood swing along with it. This is even more common in children where their emotional regulation is limited to start with. There are multiple factors that can affect a child’s mood, but food plays a large roll in stabilizing their mood, energy levels and focus.
the link between mood and food
Mood can influence the foods we crave and eat. Think back to the last time you were really stressed?
This can either make people crave carbohydrates or in some people it can cause them to turn away food all together. But more recently the link has been flipped and food has also been shown to have an impact on our mood.
Without a steady source of fuel from foods our body and more specifically our brain doesn’t function well.
So, when nutritional imbalances occur in our diets it can negatively impact the way our brain is fuelled and subsequentially how we ‘feel’ and ‘react’ to certain situations.
Low levels of zinc, iron, B Vitamins, Magnesium, Vitamin D and Omega 3 fatty acids have all been associated with decreased energy and mood.
But the link goes deeper than just nutritional imbalances. Serotonin – the happy hormone - is a chemical in the body that has been found to naturally stabilise the mood.
Serotonin can be produced by the body in reaction to certain experiences like a hug, but can also be produced in response to eating foods that are high in tryptophan an amino acid that is used by the body to create serotonin.
More research is needed to strengthen this link between food and our mood, but for now there are great foods that you can be adding to your kids diet to help them self-regulate.
A mixture of healthy fats, carbohydrates and antioxidant rich fruits and vegetables are suggested to be the best mood boosting foods to include!
how to utilise your kids lunchbox to boost mood!
Kids eat at least 1/3 of their calories from their lunchbox – often more! It’s also the time where they are expected to focus for longer periods of time and have increased sources of stimulation and activity levels which can further affect energy levels and mood. So, packing your child’s lunchbox with mood boosting foods that will stabilise the blood sugar levels is vital to set them up for a day at school or kindy.
Mood Boosting Foods to include:
Berries: While blueberries have often been hailed the mood boosting fruit, all berries actually contain the antioxidants that are helping to boost our moods!
Avocado: Full of Healthy fats, avocadoes are great at slowing the release of sugars into the blood stream, as well as vital to deliver fat soluble B Vitamins to the body.
Banana: A good source of vitamin B6, bananas can help in the synthesis of dopamine and serotonin. They also contain a good balance of sugars and fibre to slowly release sugars into the blood stream!
Yoghurt: And all other fermented foods may have a positive impact on mood. While more research is needed, it is believed that the live bacteria in fermented foods support gut health and increase serotonin levels.
Seed bars or trail mix: Nuts and seeds are full of healthy fats and proteins to boost our mood. While nuts aren’t usually allowed at schools, seeds are still a great option to include!
Wholegrains: Packed with fibre, wholegrains can help to stabilise blood sugar levels by slowing the release of sugars into the blood stream. This is important to stabilise moods and emotional regulation.
Oily Fish: Tuna, salmon and sardines might be a little smelly, but they are great tinned fish options for lunch boxes or on sandwiches. They are packed with omega 3 fatty acids which have been linked with lower levels of depression and increased mood.
Beans and Lentils: They are a great source of B vitamins which are used in the synthesis of serotonin and dopamine and can help to regulate mood. Baked beans are also a great source of zinc, magnesium, iron, selenium which have all been linked with elevated mood.
Chocolate: In moderation chocolate can have a positive effect on mood through increased release of serotonin in the body.
Vegemite: Vegemite or other yeasty foods are high in B vitamins which have been associated with increased mood.
About the Author:
Shelly is an expert in kids nutrition, Shelley Judge is using her experience in children's behaviour, psychology and nutrition, to guide families in their kitchen, help their children enjoy all food and present well-rounded, healthy options for them to enjoy. Shelley is passionate about developing delicious recipes that the whole family can enjoy!