How healthy eating benefits mental well-being
Good nutrition supports mental health and well-being, giving your body and brain the power and nourishment it needs.
When children and youth eat healthy, it can boost their mood, concentration, and help maintain energy throughout the day. They perform better in school, and feel better about themselves, their bodies, and their abilities.
Fueled by nutritious meals and snacks, children can also cope more easily with stress, better manage their emotions, and improve sleep habits.
Here you'll find ways to nurture healthy eating habits and encourage healthy relationships with food that can last a lifetime. The whole family can enjoy lasting benefits!
Answers from a Dietitian
Current evidence does not yet support the use of special diets as a treatment of mental health challenges. Often diets restrict nutrients for growing children. This can make feeding difficult, especially for children with limited food preferences who may already be at a higher risk for nutrient shortages.
Here is what we know about the current evidence to help inform your choices:
- Gluten-free, casein-free diets are not recommended for treatment of autism spectrum disorder (Pediatric guidelines 2020).
- Elimination diets are not recommended in ADHD. The research continues!
If you are considering a special diet, speak with a dietitian to ensure nutritional needs are met.
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.