My 3 year old told me that she was really stressed the other day, and my immediate reaction was to laugh because she must have heard me or my husband say it. Having said that, with the modern pressures of exams and work, especially with term time looming, I do think children get stressed. I asked the wonderful Jane Clarke to enlighten us on the subject and she includes some really great stress-busting foods to help.
1. Make sure children have something nourishing to eat in the morning or they will be too tired to function properly, and become more stressed if they can’t keep up at school. If they say they feel sick and don’t want anything, offer a small glass of diluted apple juice, or water, and they’ll soon feel they can try something more. A high-fibre cereal with milk is full of goodness but can make an unsettled tummy feel worse, so offer a slice of wholegrain toast, spread with an unsweetened pure fruit jam or nut butter, or a small home-made smoothie and a sliced banana.
2. Don’t overload your child’s anxious stomach. Keep the portions small since they are more likely to get tummy ache if they’re faced with a plateful. If you’re worried they’re not eating enough, split the three meals into smaller, more frequent fuellings.
3. Mealtimes are valuable moments to check in with your child as these can be calming times for them to express their worries. Even if you can’t eat together every day, try to sit with them at table to help them relax.
4. Sleep can be a problem if your child is stressed. Eat early, so that their tummy has at least an hour to digest the food before bed. An easy-to-eat rice or other starchy carb-rich dish in a bowl can be a soporific meal to help your child get a good night’s sleep. Afterwards, ensure they finish homework in time to relax before they go to bed. A less tired child is a happier child.
5. Milk may be an issue. Sometimes a child who is going through a tough time can exhibit lactose intolerance symptoms, such as tummy aches, sickness or diarrhoea. Keep a food diary for a week or so and if you suspect lactose intolerance is the cause, – it could be that reducing the amount of lactose in their diet temporarily might make them feel more comfortable – but make sure they get enough calcium. If your child isn’t eating well at this time, check with your GP that there is no medical problem. Ask about a good child vitamin and mineral supplement, too, as a short-term safeguard.
1.Citrus fruits such as oranges are rich in vitamin C, a powerful antioxidant that helps to reduce stress-related blood pressure.
2. Almonds are high in vitamins B and E, which help to strengthen your nervous and immune systems. They can also play a role in reducing blood pressure.
3. Salmon is packed with omega 3 fatty acids. Apart from protecting against heart disease, they also keep adrenaline levels constant.
4. Avocados are rich in antioxidant vitamin E, and potassium, which helps to lower blood pressure and regulate your heartbeat.
5. Wholegrains such as those found in bread and cereals are packed with starchy carbs, which boost energy and calm the mind.
6. Sweet potatoes satisfy the sugar and carbohydrate craving you can get under stress. They’re also rich in cleansing fibre.
7. Spinach is a great source of magnesium, which can help prevent fatigue and migraines, both of which are associated with stress.
8. Turkey contains the amino acid L-tryptophan, which triggers serotonin in the body, giving us the feel-good factor and calming our nerves.
By Jane Clarke, author of Complete Family Nutrition