Nutrition Can help your Kids Stress Less

It is estimated that the rates of anxiety and depression in children have risen between five and seven times over the past 70 years. The world our children live in is vastly different from the one I lived in. As a mom, I want to protect my kids from all of it! As we know that’s not entirely possible, but I do want to help build certain foundations that will help them embrace any issue that may come their way.

When I put my dietitian thinking cap on, I know that nature has shown me the virtue of many foods that can help us feel calmer and feel less stressed. Here are my top 5 suggestions for foods that can help our kids stress less:

  1. Reduce dietary sugar, artificial color and flavors. Research has shown that certain food dyes including yellow #5, blue #42 and red #7890 lead to episodes of mania and hyperactivity. Do your best to ensure your child’s diet stays clear of these food coloring agents, as well try to reduce simple sugars in their diet. The more sugar, the less room there is for nutritious food choices.
  2. Omega-3 – Omega-3s are powerful fats that help to build the brain, nervous system, and retina of the eye. They have been shown to improve symptoms of depression, bipolar disorder and improve feelings of stress and anxiety. Cold-water, fatty fish such as salmon, sardines, mackerel and anchovies are rich sources of these important fats. Make healthy fish “sticks” by cutting salmon into thin slices/fingers, washing them with egg and coating them in a mixture of hemp hearts (plant source of omega3) and ground parmesan cheese. Bake at 375 until cooked.
  3. Greek yogurt – Probiotics are healthy bacteria that are needed by the gastrointestinal tract for immunity and healthy digestion. Did you know our gut is called the 2nd brain? That’s because the microflora (balance of good and bad bacteria) can have a direct effect on mood, memory, anxiety and depression. Fermented foods such as kefir, sauerkraut, miso and some yogurts can provide probiotics. Buy plain, full-fat Greek yogurt and flavor by adding maple syrup or raw honey, or even better Sea-licious Maple for added omega-3.
  4. Blueberries—a true “super food”- should be consumed daily for their incredible brain-boosting flavonoids, antioxidants and vitamins.
  5. Turkey is a rich source of the amino acid tryptophan, which gives us the sleepy feeling we all experience after a big Thanksgiving dinner. It helps to balance cortisol levels and makes us feel more relaxed. Try it as a substitute for chicken once per week.