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The link between your child’s mood and food

Did you know that your child's nutrition has a big impact on his or her concentration, energy, and overall mood?

Is your child a grumpy little monster? Could their diet be causing their temper to flare? According to experts, certain foods can trigger a bad mood.

It’s important for parents to keep in mind that what their children are eating truly has a direct correlation to their mood. Not only is there a relationship between what your child consumes and their physical health, but there’s a direct line to their mental and emotional health as well.

The age-old belief that a healthy body equals a healthy mind could not ring truer than it does today. With the rise in the amount of junk and processed foods we are feeding our kids, we have to wonder how much this has to do with the subsequent rise in behavioural problems. Of course, in most cases the causes are multifactorial and each child needs to be looked at holistically – from an emotional, social, medical, and nutritional standpoint. Still, the role that diet plays can be powerful in helping children overcome their issues.

Diet and the link between mental health and behaviour

Diet can have a long-term impact on growth, bone health, brain development, heart health, and chronic disease risk.

Recent studies, on the other hand, have begun to investigate the link between diet and mental health and behaviour. What children eat clearly has an impact on their mood, emotions, and mental development.

While we can all benefit from eating healthier foods on a regular basis, children, adolescents, and teenagers are in a period of fast physical and neurological development.

To support their mood, attention, learning, and behaviour, we must pay close attention to what and how we feed them. According to research, eating a balanced and nutritious diet can help with mental health, cognitive skills like memory and focus, and academic achievement.

Identify your child bad mood food triggers

Several dietary ‘negative’ behavioural triggers have been identified. Your child may be reacting to none, one, or all of these. The best advice is to monitor your child and try and identify his own personal triggers. An irritable, anxious child is often just suffering from hypoglycaemia (or low blood sugar).

After a meal, all food (carbohydrates, in particular) gets broken down into a usable form of energy for the body – glucose. It’s the main energy source for cells, and more importantly for growing brains. Insulin is the hormone responsible for ultimately getting the glucose shuttled into our cells so it can be used for energy.

A subsequent rise in insulin levels follow a meal, glucose gets taken into the cells and blood sugar drops to normal. However, when the body receives a very large load of glucose, the rise and fall in blood sugar becomes more pronounced and blood sugar can fall too low.

Avoid these foods and beverages in your child’s diet

Fruit Juice

Without fibre found in whole fruits, fruit juice is just nutritious sugar-water that can quickly hype your child up – and bring them down just as fast. Serve your child whole fruit instead and, when they’re thirsty, encourage them to drink water.


Store-bought sauces contain lots and lots of sugar. Many boast at least four grams per tablespoon. And the “light” stuff may have artificial sweeteners that can be triggering emotional downs.

Processed Foods

If your child eats lots of processed meat, fried food, refined cereals, candy, pastries, and high-fat dairy products, they’re more likely to be in a bad mood. So, feed your child a sweetened, refined bowl of cereal in the morning, and chances are he’ll be cranky by 10:00. A diet full of whole fibre-rich grains, fruits, vegetables, and fish can help keep your child on a more even keel.


Excess consumption of sugar and refined carbohydrates has been scientifically linked to behavioural disorders, problems with concentration, and mood disorders.

Good mood foods

Kid-friendly breakfast ideas:

  • A boiled egg with wholegrain toast
  • Baked beans on a wholegrain English muffin
  • Fruit smoothie
  • Oats cooked with apple and served with a dollop of plain yoghurt
  • Weet-bix with milk and banana
  • Homemade baked goods using fruits as a natural sweetener
  • Banana pancakes
  • Popcorn can be used as a nutritious snack.
  • Serve foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, including omega-3 enriched eggs, walnuts, linseeds, and flaxseeds.


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