You are going to love our guest post by Angelle Batten today! I've known Angelle for several years and she is a fellow Michigander. She is also a ROCKSTAR when it comes to helping you feed your family whole foods. The health benefits are undeniable, and I am also sure you will be over-the-moon with behavioral benefits. Without further ado, here is Angelle:
Rude? Bad Mood? It could be the food!
Maybe you’ve experienced this as a parent.
Your normally kind preschooler morphs into a whiny, grumpy kid a little too frequently.
Or, your tween is pretty consistently belligerent and you sometimes wonder who signed you up for this parenting gig in the first place.
Or, maybe your daughter is sullen all the time, seems depressed and has you losing sleep at night worrying about her.
What if the solution to these mood & behavior issues is no further than your kitchen? That’s right. It could be the food.
Mood & behavior are directly impacted by what your child is eating and drinking each day. In fact your child’s tummy and brain are more closely related than you might realize.
The Gut: Our Second Brain
Our second brain, or the gut, literally contains its own nervous system. In fact, the ‘brain’ in our gut contains more neurotransmitters than the brain in our head!
This means that what your child is eating, drinking and how well she’s digesting it impacts her mood and her behavior.
I found this out early on with my oldest. She’d be going along fine – pleasant, happy and fun to be with – and then suddenly she’d be crabby, overwhelmed and lashing out – not as fun to be with. (Maybe you can relate?) One time when this happened I remembered something I had learned in my classes and I asked her to drink a full glass of water. She actually gulped it down and within minutes she had calmed down. A light bulb went off for me. And for her. She was dehydrated. This impacted her brain and whole nervous system. Once she was hydrated again things were running smoothly for her. I later researched this and found that what seemed too simple is actually true. Once I made this connection with water and behavior I began testing out the food and behavior connection, learning just how powerful that is too.
Food and water are our body’s fuel for running smoothly. What if you decided that you were too tired to take your car up to the gas station to fill up the tank? Instead you pulled the hose around from the side of the house to fill the gas tank. It’s liquid just like gasoline, right? I love asking kids this question. The littlest ones get wide-eyed and tell me the car is going to blow up. Older kids often look at me suspiciously and tell me the car will probably start spurting and sputtering – duh!
The thing is our kids are spurting and sputtering every day. Not only with health issues but with bad behavior. The first thing to ask ourselves is, “What’s fueling this?”
Fake Foods and Drinks
If your child is being fueled by fake foods & drinks – filled with artificial colors, sweeteners, high fructose corn syrup, too much sugar, enriched flours and other chemicals – her brain is not getting the fuel it needs to be at its best. Instead it’s spurting and sputtering…and indeed sometimes it may seem like it is ‘blowing up’!
In the book Bad Attitude: Reverse Your Child’s Rudeness in 1 Week – with Food!, authors Audrey Ricker, Ph.D. and Brian Cabin, M.D. describe these behavioral symptoms as ones often related to food:
Fixation with Snack Food
Rudeness when Eating
We know that every time our child talks back it’s not related to food. But, kids aren’t supposed to be unhappy, grumpy and rude all the time. Healthy kids are happy, resilient and collaborative more often than not. If your child experiences the above symptoms too frequently or you notice a pattern of any of those behaviors, there’s a good chance his diet is playing a role.
Behind the Scenes
At least 4 of your child’s major body systems are directly related to food: digestive, endocrine, nervous and respiratory systems. If your child’s not getting the right fuel then these systems are sure to spurt and sputter with health, learning and/or behavior issues.
The good news is kids are resilient. When we start feeding them more of the right fuel - what I call REAL food - and crowd out the fake food – their body will often respond very quickly. Just like my daughter’s does when she drinks water and eats protein.
Bump & Balance:A Step-Wise Approach to Change
If you suspect (or are even a bit curious) that what your child is eating and drinking is impacting her behavior I want you to start to do the ‘Bump & Balance’. And, no this isn’t some old 80’s dance craze. Here’s what I mean:
One: BUMP up the quality of your child’s food and drinks. Eat more fresh foods that don’t come in packages with long ingredient lists. And when you do serve packaged foods, read the label and ask yourself if you could actually go to the grocery store and buy those exact ingredients and make that product. If not, put it back on the shelf and find an alternative to crowd out the fake option. For instance, if plain noodles are a favorite meal and they are made from enriched flour and some synthetic vitamins, you could go for a whole grain gluten-free noodle with no additives. You’re just bumping up the quality of the ingredients to be a better fuel.
Two: BALANCE your child’s meals and snacks with Powerful Protein, Friendly Fat & Colorful Carbs. There’s a good chance your child is eating lots of grain & sugar-based meals and snacks. This is a recipe for disaster as far as digestion and blood sugar, which means disaster for mood and behavior. Think about a favorite meal or snack. Ask yourself if it includes protein and healthy fat. If not, consider what you could add to make it more balanced. Using noodles as an example again, think about adding real butter or olive oil for some Friendly Fat or better yet, a tomato based meat sauce and a side of steamed broccoli and real butter. Now you have Powerful Protein, Friendly Fat and Colorful Carbs. (Here are 15 balanced meal & snack ideas for you!)
Don’t assume your child won’t go along with the changes. He might resist at first but with a little education and consistency you’ll be surprised how quickly he will get on board with changes in his diet. (Here’s a series of blog posts to help you make changes in your family’s diet when they are resisting.)
And, when he does, you will also be surprised by some of the changes in behavior you just might see. That whiney, snarky, complaining behavior may just start to fade away. And you’ll get that sweet collaborative kiddo back in your life more often, and that’s sweeter than sugar!
Angelle Batten, MEd is a Family Wellness Coach and a mom to 3 Adventurous Eaters. You can join her mailing list at www.AngelleBatten.com to get one of her favorite (5 ingredient) recipes along with a list of 5 ‘good news’ ingredients to easily add into your family’s diet. She’ll show you how to feed your family healthier. One. Manageable. Step. At. A. Time.
See? I knew you would be swooning! Doesn't this just make you want to go through your cupboards and fridge and eradicate the (ahem!) foods that are less than whole? Thanks for being such an inspiration, Angelle!
Note: I just got word from Angelle that some of the links on her site may not be fully functional, as her site is undergoing some updates currently. Be sure to check back after Monday, when everything will be accessible. You won't want to miss a thing!