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Helping Kids Eat Healthy for Good Mental Health?

Helping Kids Eat Healthy for Good Mental Health?

We know eating healthy is essential for physical health, but what about mental health? The Mental Health Foundation suggests diet can play a role in the development and in the prevention of depression, attention deficit disorder, hyperactivity, Alzheimer’s, and schizophrenia. Just as emotional behavior affects the appetite, poor eating habits affect the brain. Found in fruits, vegetables, and dairy products, glucose fuels the human brain. In clinical tests, researchers link the absence of glucose to headaches, stress, behavior disorders, and poor decision making, especially in children whose prefrontal cortex is still developing and in teenagers whose brains are incessantly changing.

Although fruits and vegetables of today would be unrecognizable by our ancestors, parents nationwide encourage and at times demand children eat their vegetables. A pleasant family gathering around the dinner table can turn chaotic when “little Johnny” refuses to eat his peas. Researchers at Yale University tested 47 eight to 18-month-olds with plants and man-made objects. The children showed “striking reluctance to touch plants”. The researchers believe children are genetically programmed from birth with a survival instinct to avoid plants in case they are poisonous. You might not want to share this information with a ten-year-old; however, you do want to end the frenzy and fight over ten green beans or a spoonful of peas.

Mealtime battles can lead to screaming parents, crying children, high stress, and long-term dysfunction. Because children have more options than ever, they are more unyielding in their wants and desires. Pushing back, saying “no”, throwing tantrums, and remaining steadfast in their opinions is more common than ever. Communication is the key. Good parenting includes open, honest communications. Fighting back against eating vegetables is common, however, when the behavior at mealtime becomes a source of stress the entire family is suffers. Improving Lives Counseling Services is here to help.

High stress and anxiety at mealtime affect the digestive system. “When stress activates the ‘flight or fight’ response in your central nervous system, digestion can shut down because your central nervous system shuts down blood flow. Ongoing stress can cause inflammation of the gastrointestinal system and make you more susceptible to infection.” The counselors and therapists of Improving Lives Counseling Services understand the connection between mind and body and the importance of family communication. Guidance, support, and coping mechanisms are available in individual, couples, family, and group sessions.

Family dinners are a stable of the American household. Research has shown benefits of family dinners include a greater sense of spirit, higher self-esteem, a decreased risk of substance abuse, and a lower risk of depression. If your family dinner leaves you feeling overwhelmed, irritable, and frustrated, you are not living the life you were meant to live and neither is your family. Let us help. Call us.