Reality: Think about what you are like when you’ve missed your lunch. Are you happy or irritable? Children are like this too. They need regular meals and snacks throughout the day (3 meals/day and 2-3 snacks/day).
Eating regular meals and snacks (2-4 hours apart) can help maintain more stable energy levels throughout the day.
Eating whole foods that are high in fibre provide lasting energy compared to foods either low in fibre or high in sugar that result in only short term energy – when the energy runs out, the irritability kicks in.
Read tips for easy whole food snacks and meals.
Reality: There seems to be a bad reputation surrounding carbohydrates, but they are the muscle and brain’s main source of energy. Without their energy to fuel your body, the protein in your muscle will break down into glucose (sugar) so your brain and muscles can keep on working.
Aim for whole grains like brown rice, whole wheat pasta, whole grain breads, bulgur, quinoa, etc. Whole grains provide your body with the added benefits of fibre, vitamins and minerals, and promote the beneficial bacteria in your gut.
Reality: It's a myth that eating sugar makes children hyper. Sugar is often a part of exciting events that make children hyper, such as Halloween and birthday parties - this is sometimes called the "Halloween Effect."
- Studies have been done where parents are told that their child has been given sugar - these parents rated their child's behaviour as hyperactive. The parents that were told their children had no sugar, rated their children as calm. In reality, the "hyper" children had been given no sugar, and the "calm" children had been given lots of sugar.
- Studies show that eating sugar has no effect on symptoms of children with ADHD - not that we are recommending adding sugar to a child's diet!
Reality: When parents attempt to control their child's food intake, such as by getting your child to have "3 more bites", "clean their plates", or by restricting dessert until fruits and vegetables are eaten, studies show that children are more likely to:
- Not respond to the "full" signal cues and have more problems with their weight
- Have enhanced preference for high-fat and energy-dense foods as well as a more limited acceptance of a variety of foods
We know children eat when they are hungry and stop when they are full. So, if you're serving a few different vegetables, your child can decide whether to eat them, or not. If they don't eat them, that's okay. There should be another meal or snack scheduled in 2-4 hours.
Read more great ways to keep mealtime struggle-free.