Top 10+ Supportive Tips to Feed Your Children a "Smarter" Diet

The importance of eating healthy food is obvious to most parents. But our concern is not just about obesity. Maybe you don't know how food can affect learning and behavior as well.

According to the Center for Science in the Public Interest, "17 of the 23 studies [on diet, ADHD and behavior since 1975] found evidence that some children's behavior significantly worsens after they consume artificial colors or certain foods such as wheat or milk. Limited research with such tools as electroencephalography (EEG) indicates that certain foods trigger physiological changes in sensitive individuals."1

Food and Behaviour Research of London reports that "increased levels of hyperactivity are associated with the development of educational difficulties, especially in relation to reading, therefore adverse effects could affect a child's ability to benefit from schooling."2

Food choice can make a difference in how your child learns and performs at school. Children who eat less refined and highly processed carbohydrates for breakfast (i.e. sugary breakfast cereals, bagels, syrupy pancakes) and foods lower on the glycemic index (proteins, whole grains, nuts, fruits, vegetables, beans) show better cognitive performance, better working memory, selective attention, and executive function.3 Children who eat more fruits over highly processed junk food complain less of stomach pain,4 making activities school easier. Those who consume more omega-3's and protein show fewer behavior problems than their peers. 5 6 Supplementation of essential fatty acids omega 3's, omega 6's and Vitamin E helps kids in their reading and spelling.7 Yes, food can do all this.

But where do we start? All the information about food and well-being and finding ways to get your family to eat healthier food can sometimes seem overwhelming.

First, be kind to yourself. All the information you read may make you crazy trying to do too much too soon. That might put you back right where you started only more frustrated.

Second, start with one change. Changes made gradually until they become normal make room for new changes.

Third, acknowledge that moving toward an optimal diet is a process, one that can reap fabulous rewards for your children's focus, concentration, learning and behavior as well as for their health and your own.

Here's how you can get started today.

Becky's Top Ten+ Tips to Feed your Children a "Smarter" Diet

  1. Keep it real.
    No one is expecting you to eat organic whole foods from the local farmer all the time. Then you ask, "Well, if I can't do it all the time, is it even worth it to buy organic once in a while?" Your body does know the difference.
  2. Notice the difference.
    Do you feel more satisfied by your choice? Is it tastier? If you like it, and are enthusiastic, be positive about it. It is not about deprivation. Delicious food and your attitude can lead the way.
  3. Crowd out foods by adding in foods.
    Foods that are introduced slowly without replacing a beloved food are the best received. As the body gets accustomed to the healthier alternative it will crave its counterpart less. It gets crowded out.
  4. Eat a better breakfast.
    Do a breakfast sampling yourself for one week. Try one with just protein, just carbohydrates, just fruit, or just vegetables. Find out which one keeps you full and clear headed until lunch.
  5. Choose whole grains.
    Even though Wonder Bread is claiming to be on the whole grain bandwagon, don't think that they have grains all figured out. Only a whole unprocessed grain is real food.
  6. Serve fewer juices-snack on more fruits and vegetables.
    The fruit sugar in juice supplies a jolt of unsustainable energy to the blood stream without any of the fiber that the body needs for healthy digestion. Whole fruit does not.
  7. Add greens, but be smart.
    Kids know the color green and may avoid it. Aversion may come from a lack of familiarity and it is a normal survival mechanism. Kids can learn to like vegetables and bridge the gap between yuck and yum if they first get in the kitchen to play and cook with the food.
  8. Read labels for sugar.
    Kids love to be investigative reporters. Go down the grocery aisle, pick up a box of cereal and declare, "Look at all the grams of sugar in this one!" Pretty soon they'll be aware of what's good and not so good for them.
  9. Try the "Sugar Experiment."
    If you or your children are not convinced that food affects them, try the "sugar experiment." It may seem crazy, but giving your kids a junk food breakfast can be the biggest teacher.
  10. Read more labels for artificial ingredients.
    Be the sleuth yourself. There are many additives and dyes that can have serious repercussions for children's health, learning and behavior.
  11. Find out if your child has food sensitivity.
    Food sensitivity is different than a food allergy.8 The difference is a critical and it can provide insight into an unexpected link between food and behavior problems.
  12. Get support!
    No one expects you to figure it all out on your own. Becky Holt can work with you to reach your goals for healthier eating as your holistic health counselor. Read more at and then call Becky today for a free consultation: (845) 348-1870. Check out more information about her programs at

Celebrate your efforts! The results of such changes can be pretty exciting. And smart for everyone!

Want to read more about each tip? Go to Click on Articles to read more about each tip and about Becky's health counseling programs.

1. Schardt, D. (2000) "Diet, Behavior & Children." [10-4-07]
2. Food and Behavior Research. "6 September 2007 - The Lancet - Food Additives Increase Levels Of Hyperactivity In Children In The General Population." [9 30-07]
3. Ludwig, David (2007) Ending the Food Fight. Houghton Mifflin, p. 60.
4. Laino, Charlene (2004) "Food Can Have Powerful Effect on Health." [10-4-07]
5. BBC NEWS "Mental health link to diet change." [10-4-07]
6. Liu, Jianghong; Raine, Adrian. Current Opinion in Pediatrics. 18(5):565-570, October 2006.
7. Richardson, AJ, "Fatty acid deficiency signs predict the severity of reading and related difficulities in dyslexic children." Prostaglandins Leukot Essent Fatty Acids 2000 Jul-Aug; 63(1-2):69-74. Oxford University.
8. European Food Information Council (2007) "Food Allergy and Food Intolerance." [9-29-07]