5 Reasons Why Healthy Eating Make Kids Happy

5 Reasons Why Healthy Eating Make Kids Happy

You already know that feeding your kids healthy foods is important for their growth and development and overall health and wellness, but can healthy eating make kids happy too?

There’s no doubt that food is medicine and raising kids to eat healthy can prevent childhood obesity, type-2 diabetes and a long list of chronic health conditions plaguing our nation.

When it comes to mental health and conditions like anxiety, depression and ADHD, many doctors are quick to prescribe a pill.

Medications may be necessary and can be life-saving for kids, but research shows a child’s diet can also make a big difference when it comes to mood, mental health and happiness.

Here, read on for some of the reasons why healthy eating makes kids happy.

1. Healthy eating supports gut health and the brain

When we hear the term microbiome, we often think gut health, but the microbiome is actually a vast ecosystem made up of 100 trillion microorganisms, or microbes, that live in and on our bodies.

These microbes are made up mostly of bacteria but they can also include fungi, viruses and other types of tiny organisms.

The gut microbiome specifically, has received a lot of attention in recent years because researchers have made important discoveries about its link to the brain.

In fact, the gut is often called the second brain because of the strong pathways along the gut-brain axis.

The enteric nervous system, which directs the function of the GI system, has 30 types of neurotransmitters and 100 million neurons.

So although we often think the brain is entirely responsible for mental health and mood, experts say the gut has a lot to do with it too.

Suffice to say, optimizing the gut with foods, especially those rich in probiotics, can help the brain.

2. Healthy eating improves sleep

Although most parents agree that sleep is important for their child’s health and well-being and performance in school, most kids fall short, a 2014 poll by the National Sleep Foundation found.

Curbing the electronics, sticking to a consistent sleep schedule and leading by example are all key, but experts say gut health also has a lot to do with the quality of sleep, which can affect a child’s mood.  

As previously mentioned, a ton of neurotransmitters are found in the gut, including serotonin—about 95 percent worth!

Often dubbed the happy chemical, serotonin is also a building block for melatonin, the hormone that regulates sleep. What’s more, there is 400 times the amount of melatonin in the gut than there is in the brain.

3. Healthy eating can prevent depression

The increase in children with anxiety and depression in the U.S. is alarming.

According to a June 2018 study in the Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics, between 2007 and 2012 the amount of children between ages 6 and 7 with anxiety increased by 20 percent while those with depression increased by 0.2 percent.

There are a lot of factors that play into a person’s propensity to develop anxiety and depression like genetics and family history, trauma and environment but diet also plays a role.

According to a large cohort study published in October 2013 in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, kids exposed in utero and during early childhood to junk food and those who lacked healthy foods were at an increased risk for developing anxiety and depression while they were still young.

Experts say healthy eating however, can help ward off these conditions.

Take the SMILES trial published in January 2017. It’s important to note that the study was conducted in adults, so it’s unclear if the same results could be replicated in kids.

Still, the study found that 30 percent of people with depression who followed a Mediterranean diet for 12 weeks reversed their depression, compared to only 8 percent of those in the control group who didn’t change their diet and only received social support.

4. Healthy eating is linked to better self-esteem

 

A December 2017 study in the journal BMC Public Health found healthy eating is associated with better self-esteem and fewer emotional and peer problems, such as bullying, in kids between ages 2 and 9.

Interestingly, kids had the same boost in self-esteem whether or not they were overweight.

On the flip side, when kids have strong self-esteem, they’re also likely to make healthy food choices, the same study found.

5. Healthy eating can help kids with ADHD

 

Approximately 11 percent of kids between ages 4 and 17 are diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), according to the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

While experts say foods can’t cause ADHD, processed foods, artificial food dyes and sugar may worsen symptoms.

It also seems that eating a whole foods diet can help to support the health of a child with ADHD. In fact, a February 2011 study in The Lancet found 78 percent of children who followed a “restricted elimination diet,” which consisted of real, whole, unprocessed foods, experienced an improvement in their symptoms.

Have you found eliminating certain foods and changing your child’s diet improved his mood? Let me know in the comments.

 

6 Natural Remedies To Ease Kids’ Tummy Aches

6 Natural Remedies To Ease Kids’ Tummy Aches

When my daughter complains that she has a stomachache, the first words out of my mouth are always, “are you going to vomit?!”

I know no one likes dealing with a kid who is vomiting, but when I see someone else getting sick, I start gagging myself.

Most of the time however, her stomach hurts because she ate a bag of chips, too many sweets or even went overboard on fruit, despite my best efforts to teach her about portion control.

Tummy aches are a surprisingly common complaint for kids. According to a May 2016 study in the journal American Family Physician, about 9 percent of kids’ doctor visits are due to stomachaches.

Most of the time, they’re mild and short-lived but if your kid has tummy aches that seem severe or persist, checking in with your pediatrician is always a good idea.

An infection, food allergies or an intolerance, constipation, fatigue and even stress can cause tummy aches.

When it’s your run of the mill tummy ache however, there are some natural remedies that can help ease your kid’s discomfort.

1. Chamomile tea

 

My go-to remedy when my kids have tummy aches is a cup of decaffeinated chamomile tea, which is a well-known remedy for upset stomach.

Chamomile leaves are high in flavonoids, a type of plant pigment that is thought to be responsible for chamomile’s healing properties. Research suggests chamomile may reduce inflammation and help the muscles relax.

Infants and young children however, should never consume chamomile tea, because (like honey), it may be contaminated with botulism spores.

2. Ginger

 

Ginger is another ancient remedy for tummy aches, nausea, and for pregnant women, morning sickness.

Studies suggest ginger’s effectiveness is due to its antioxidants, anti-inflammatory and anti-nausea properties. The oily resin from the roots of ginger contain bioactive compounds that are believed to help ease gastrointestinal (GI) distress.

If you decide to try ginger, ginger ale won’t cut it because it’s not made with real ginger root and is mostly sugar and high fructose corn syrup anyway.

Instead, try ginger tea, ginger beer (it’s non-alcoholic), or freshly grated ginger in a cup of warm water.

3. Heating pad

 

A heating pad (set on low) for about 20 minutes often does the trick when my kids have tummy aches. It helps relax the muscles in the abdomen and it can be soothing while your child is resting.

4. Peppermint

 

Peppermint, an herb which is a cross between water mint and spearmint, has been well researched and shown to be an effective remedy for people with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), according to a July 2014 study in the Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology.

Less is known about peppermint’s effectiveness for indigestion or nausea but it’s still worth a try.

Peppermint tea seems to be safe for kids, but be sure to read warning labels.

Peppermint essential oil in a diffuser may be OK, but the oils should never be applied to an infant or child’s face or chest because serious side effects can occur if they inhale it, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

5. Produce and fiber-rich foods

 

If your child has a tummy ache because he’s constipated, a green vegetable smoothie, a few prunes or a small amount of prune juice may do the trick.

If constipation is a persistent problem, it’s important to talk to your pediatrician to rule out a medical condition.

Of course, taking a closer look at his diet is important too.

Avoid fast foods, processed foods and greasy foods and prioritize fruits and vegetables and other fiber-rich foods that can ease and prevent constipation.

6. Drink up

 

Sometimes drinking water is enough to get things moving and ease a tummy ache.

If you have a tough time getting your child to drink plain water, add slices of cucumber or strawberries, which will add a hint of flavor.

How To Choose A Healthy Kids’ Yogurt

How To Choose A Healthy Kids’ Yogurt

Whether you serve it for breakfast, as an after-school snack or add it to smoothies, yogurt can be a healthy food in your kid’s diet.

Yogurt is an excellent source of protein, which promotes satiety and can prevent weight gain. It’s also a great source of calcium, potassium, magnesium and vitamin B12 as well as probiotics, the healthy bacteria that boost kids’ gut health and strengthens their immune systems.

Studies show kids who eat yogurt may eat healthier overall too.

According to a January 2018 study in the European Journal of Nutrition, compared to kids who don’t eat yogurt, those who eat 60 grams of yogurt a day have healthier diets and higher intakes of key nutrients like calcium and iodine, lower levels of hemoglobin A1c, a marker of diabetes, and lower blood pressure.

Yet not all yogurts are created equal, however. Many are too high in sugar, have artificial ingredients and may not be the best source of probiotics. Here, learn how to sift through all the choices and choose a healthy kids’ yogurt.

 

 

Taste and try

In recent years, Americans are eating more yogurt than ever before. According to a 2018 report by ResearchandMarkets.com, sales of yogurt in 2017 reached nearly $9 billion.

It’s no surprise then, in order to meet consumer demand, there are dozens of different brands and types of yogurt on grocery store shelves.

Choosing between the different types of yogurt is usually a matter of preference. For example, Skyr yogurt is thicker and creamier than traditional, unstrained yogurt.

Organic yogurt is always a good idea because you won’t get the nasty antibiotics and hormones, but grass-fed yogurt, which has a better make-up of fats and nutrients than cows who feed on soy, corn and grains, is ideal.

According to a February 2018 study in the journal Food Science and Nutrition, cows fed a 100 percent organic grass and legume-based diet produce milk with higher levels of omega-3 and conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), which can reduce the risk for cardiovascular disease, obesity and diabetes.

Grass-fed yogurt is also a good choice for pregnant and breastfeeding moms, babies and children since omega-3 fatty acids play a role in the development of the eyes, brain and the nervous system.

If your kids are lactose intolerant or vegan or you don’t do dairy because of concerns regarding cow’s milk, there are plenty of non-dairy yogurts made with almond milk, coconut milk and soy.

 

Read labels

When it comes to sources of sneaky sugars, yogurt is one of the worst offenders.

According to a September 2018 study in the journal BMJ Open, of 900 yogurt brands in the U.K. tested, only 9 percent, and less than 2 percent of kids’ yogurts, were low in sugar.

The American Heart Association says kids should eat less than 25 grams of added sugar a day, but studies show most kids—even babies and toddlers—eat too much.

As the new Nutrition Facts labels, which include a line for added sugars, continue to be rolled out this year, it will be much easier to choose a healthy kids’ yogurt.

For now, read labels and keep in mind that sugar can be hidden behind at least 61 different names like fruit juice, cane sugar, sucrose and high-fructose corn syrup.

Consider low fat vs. full fat

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommend kids consume non-fat or low-fat dairy products, but many of these types of yogurt contain more sugar than their full fat versions.

Full fat yogurt is also more satiating, which staves off kids’ hunger and can prevent weight gain. What’s more, studies prove that fat isn’t the demon it’s been made out to be.

In fact, a September 2018 study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found no link between dairy fat and heart disease and stroke and the fats in dairy may even be protective against these conditions.

Make it your own

Yogurts with blended fruit, pretzels and crushed cookies can help persuade picky eating kids to eat yogurt, but these yogurts are so high in sugar they’re better served as dessert.

A healthier option is to choose plain yogurt and add your own fresh fruit like raspberries, which are high in fiber and low glycemic so they won’t spike your kid’s blood sugar. You can also add cinnamon, nutmeg or vanilla extract for extra flavor.

Think twice about yogurt tubes

Yogurt tubes are really convenient especially for school lunches, road trips and when you’re on the go, but many of these yogurts marketed to kids are loaded with sugar, and have artificial colors and flavors.

Although yogurt tubes are kid-friendly, it’s not a healthy, natural way for anyone to eat. Not only is using a spoon a fine motor skill, but instead of tasting and savoring each spoonful, squeezing food into their mouths creates an unhealthy mindless eating habit.

If you do opt for yogurt tubes however, look for those that are made with real ingredients, and are high in protein and low in sugar. Chobani and Siggi’s are two brands I like.

Look for yogurt with live and active cultures

For yogurt to be considered yogurt by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), it must contain two types of probiotics, S. thermophilus or L. bulgaricus.

Yogurts marked with the National Yogurt Association’s live and active cultures seal from means the yogurt has at least 100 million cultures per gram when it’s manufactured.

Yet those probiotics may not be present by the time they hits store shelves. In fact, an April 2017 study out of the University of Toronto found many types of probiotic yogurts had levels of probiotics too low to provide the health benefits found in clinical trials.

To fill the void, serve naturally fermented vegetables, miso, tempeh, Kimchi and Kefir, which are better sources of probiotics.

 

9 Probiotic-Rich Foods For Kids

9 Probiotic-Rich Foods For Kids

There’s no shortage of information about the benefits of probiotics and probiotic-rich foods, but what about your kids? Do they need probiotics too?

What Are The Benefits of Probiotics For Kids?

Probiotics are often marketed to parents as a way to prevent colds, the flu, diarrhea and constipation.

Studies show probiotics may also treat health conditions like colic, reflux, allergies, asthma and eczema. In fact, a February 2018 meta-analysis in the journal PLOS One suggests taking probiotics during late pregnancy and while breastfeeding may reduce a baby’s risk for the skin condition.

The buzz about probiotics comes down to one thing: gut health. The gut microbiome is a vast collection of approximately 100 trillion microbes, or microorganisms, that live on and in the body, but most are found in the gastrointestinal tract or simply, the gut.

One class of microbes are bacteria. The gut contains both harmful bacteria that lead to disease and helpful bacteria that strengthen the immune system and help kids stay healthy.

A course of antibiotics or eating a diet high in processed foods, sugar and refined grains can throw off the balance between healthy and harmful bacteria in their gut and leave your kids susceptible to illness.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) states that although probiotics are likely safe, it’s not clear how effective they are or what the long-term effects may be for kids. What’s more, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) doesn’t regulate the safety and effectiveness of dietary supplements, so if you do give your kids probiotics, you really don’t know what you’re giving them.

It’s always a good idea to check with your pediatrician first, but getting nutrients from food sources, including probiotics, is always better than a supplement.

These 9 probiotic-rich foods (some are dairy-free) are healthy and delicious and will give your kids a dose of gut healthy, immune boosting bacteria.

1. Kefir

Kefir tastes a bit tangy and with a thicker consistency than milk but not quite as thick as yogurt, kefir can be served alone or mixed with fruit for a healthy breakfast smoothie.

Since most brands of kefir are sweetened and high in sugar, read labels carefully. Your best bet will likely be plain, unsweetened kefir which you can add your own fresh fruit to for more fiber and sweetness.

2. Green Peas


Green peas are an excellent source of fiber, protein and vitamins A, C, B6, and K, magnesium and folate.

Surprisingly, they’re also probiotic-rich. In fact, a December 2018 study in the Journal of Applied Microbiology found that a particular strain—leuconostoc mesenteroides subsp. mesenteroides—can boost gut health. The study was conducted in mice however, so it’s not clear if the same findings can be replicated in humans.

3. Sourdough bread


Sourdough bread is made with a fermentation process that uses wild yeast and lactic acid bacteria that’s naturally present, making it a good source of probiotics.

Your kids may not immediately take to the taste of sourdough bread so serve a small piece with a pat of grass-fed butter, which has a dose of probiotics too.

4. Yogurt

A March 2018 study in the journal Clinical and Experimental Allergy found that babies who ate yogurt on a daily basis reduced their risk for allergies and eczema by up to 70 percent. The authors note however, that it’s unclear what type of yogurt and how much is actually beneficial.

Experts I’ve interviewed say most store-bought yogurts don’t contain enough probiotics by the time you purchase them. The nurse practitioner in my children’s pediatrician’s office recommended they try Activia, so that’s what we buy.

5. Fermented Pickles

Most kids love pickles, but most pickles on store shelves won’t cut it.

To get the benefits of probiotics, you’ll want to look for pickles in the refrigerated section and those brands that are labeled “naturally fermented,” like Bubbies.

6. Kimchi

A popular Asian side dish, kimchi is a naturally fermented cabbage that contains probiotics and is rich in vitamins A, C, K, B6, folate and iron.

Since kimchi is a bit spicy, give your kids a small amount and see if they like it.

7. Sauerkraut

Sauerkraut, another type of fermented cabbage, is a good source of probiotics as well as fiber, calcium and magnesium, vitamins B6, C and K, folate, iron and potassium.

Most store-brands of sauerkraut don’t contain probiotics however, so look for those that state they’re naturally fermented.

8. Miso

A traditional Japanese condiment that’s made from fermented rye, beans, rice or barley, miso is one of the probiotic-rich foods. A good way to introduce miso to kids is to offer miso soup since it has a mild flavor and is quite delicious.

9. Coconut milk yogurt

If your kids can’t consume dairy or your family is dairy-free, coconut milk yogurt is one of the best probiotic-rich foods.

Like many types of yogurt however, coconut milk yogurt can be high in sugar so read labels carefully. Or find plain, unsweetened versions and add fresh berries for added fiber and a hint of sweetness.

How Much Fiber Do Kids Need?  Fiber eases constipation but there are other reasons why kids need it in their diets.

How Much Fiber Do Kids Need?

Fiber eases constipation but there are other reasons why kids need it in their diets.

If your kids have ever been constipated, you probably tried to get more fiber in their diets. Although fiber-rich foods can combat constipation, they’re an important part of a healthy diet and something kids should be eating throughout the day.

Studies show however, many kids aren’t getting nearly enough. When it comes to whole grains which are one source of fiber, 39 percent of children and teens consume none at all, a January 2014 study in the journal Nutrition Research found.

Highly processed foods, fast food and frozen foods that make up a majority of what kids eat are partly to blame but without plenty of fruits and vegetables every day, they can’t meat their fiber needs.

Read on to learn why fiber is so important to your children’s health, how much they need and how to get it in their diets.

Why Do Kids Need Fiber?

Fiber Satisfies Hunger

If your kids constantly ask for snacks, it could be that they’re not getting enough fiber in their meals.

Fiber is filling, slowly digested and satiates hunger so if they’re not eating enough, they’ll be hungry in no time.

Fiber Prevents Constipation

Perhaps the most compelling reason for your kids to eat foods high in fiber is that fiber prevents constipation. Without enough fiber, your child’s poop can become hard and difficult to pass.

Fiber May Improve Academic Performance

Eating plenty of fiber may support your kids’ brain health. A January 2015 study in the Journal of Nutrition found for children between ages 7 and 9, consuming adequate levels of fiber was positively correlated to cognitive control, such as the ability to multitask.

Fiber Prevents Childhood Obesity

Eating a diet rich in fiber can help to ensure your children maintain healthy weights.

Fiber keeps kids feeling fuller longer so they’re less likely to reach for refined carbohydrates and sugary fare to stave off hunger.

Fiber May Prevent Cancer

Studies show getting enough fiber may ward off certain types of cancer, including colorectal cancer.

What’s more, a March 2016 study in the journal Pediatrics suggests increasing fiber intake during the teen and early adult years may lower the risk for developing breast cancer. Women who consumed about 28 grams of fiber a day during high school had a significantly lower risk of breast cancer than those who consumed 15 grams or less a day.

Fiber Is Heart-Healthy

Studies show eating fiber can lower the risk for high cholesterol, a risk factor for heart disease.

Heart disease may not be on your mind now, but the way your children eat today can affect their diets and eating habits for the rest of their lives.

Fiber Supports Stable Blood Sugar Levels

If your kids are frequently cranky or seem to melt down, it could be due to a lack of fiber in their diets.

Refined carbohydrates like white bread, white rice, crackers and snack foods can spike blood sugar levels. Over time, eating these high glycemic foods could increase your kids’ risk for developing type-2 diabetes, a 2007 study in the journal PLoS Medicine found.

Fiber Boosts Gut Health

A diet rich in soluble fiber helps to produce healthy bacteria in the gut. A healthy gut strengthens your child’s immune system, can prevent certain GI issues like diarrhea and may prevent health problems due to leaky gut later on in life.

A November 2016 study in the journal Cell suggests diets low in fiber cause healthy bacteria to begin to eat away at the natural mucus in the gut lining which leaves the colon susceptible to infection.

Insoluble Fiber vs. Soluble Fiber: What’s The Difference?

There are two main types of fiber: insoluble and soluble. Kids need both but they each play different roles in your children’s health.

Insoluble Fiber

Often referred to as “roughage,” insoluble fiber is found in fruits and vegetables, whole grains and nuts. As the name suggests, insoluble fiber doesn’t dissolve in water, is undigested and bulks up waste which makes it easier to pass.

Soluble Fiber

Soluble fiber, which is found in foods like beans, legumes, oats and fruits (avocado included), absorbs water and forms a gel-like substance that softens waste. Soluble fiber also sticks to cholesterol and sugar, which prevents or slows down the absorption in the bloodstream.

How Much Fiber Do Kids Need?

Kids need between 19 grams and 38 grams of fiber a day, depending on their age and gender. The American Health Association has recommendations here.

You should speak to your children’s pediatrician or a pediatric nutritionist however, to make sure they get the right amount of fiber.

How To Get More Fiber In Your Kids’ Diets

The American Academy of Pediatrics says instead of counting grams of fiber, aim to get 5 fruits and vegetables each day. If your children are picky eaters however, it can seem like a lofty goal. With some simple tweaks to your their diets however, you can make sure they gets enough fiber.

Here are some ideas:

1. Serve vegetables for breakfast.

2. Offer fruit, nuts or seeds for snacks.

3. Add avocado to smoothies, sandwiches, salads and stews.

4. Swap refined carbohydrates like white bread, white rice and snack foods with whole grain alternatives.

5. Eat more beans. Add them to eggs, in place of meat on taco night or as snacks. Swap out eggs and oil in brownie recipes with pureed beans.

6. Add chia seeds to smoothies, baked goods or make a chia seed pudding.

7. Serve salads more often.