Meet and Beat the Junk-Food Crabbie!
Eating "junk food" can have an impact on your child's mood and behaviors. This is particularly true for foods high in sugar. These foods may give your child on an emotional roller-coaster. Have you ever noticed that one minute your child is expressing glee while eating a chocolate chip cookie and then is in tears a short while later?
Children vary in how much they are affected by surges and dips in blood sugar. Some children have a very noticeable mood change after eating junk foods, whereas other children do not seem to be disrupted at all. Pay close attention to how your child acts within the first few minutes after eating various foods. This will give you a hint about whether they are experiencing a "sugar high." Then, also note how they act 20 minutes to an hour later. That will give you a hint about whether they are experiencing a "sugar crash."
Key signs for the Junk-Food Crabbies include:
- Wild, hyperactive, ‘off the wall’ behavior that can even be destructive or mean-spirited
- Disagreeable, agitated and angry
- Impulse control problems (e.g., jumping on furniture, throwing things, running, loud talking)
- Dramatic swings from high energy levels to sadness or crying
- Difficulty focusing or inability to settle down
- Sudden changes in mood or behavior shortly after eating certain foods
If your child can’t focus first thing in the morning it may be related to what he or she is eating (or not eating) for breakfast. The same goes for changes in mood and ability to focus after lunch or snacks. Foods that are high in sugar have a proven and measurable impact on a child’s brain chemistry, which can affect them in many important ways. It is essential to look at what your children are eating and to reduce foods that are high in sugar.
When you take a close look, it is almost astounding how much sugar there is in many foods, especially foods marketed to children. In order to successfully beat the Junk-Food Crabbie, we recommend looking at food labels. It is okay to have an occasional treat but if your child is eating unhealthy foods frequently, it is almost impossible to avoid the kinds of problems described above. So, learning to Beat Junk-Food is important for your child’s social, physical, mental, and academic well-being.
Eating healthy foods is the first defense against the Junk-Food Crabbie. It is equally important to reduce “junk foods” and to limit treats (ice cream, cookies, candy, etc.). If you are going to allow your child to have treats, we recommend doing so only occasionally and after they have eaten a healthy meal. It is important to teach them the difference between “junk foods” and healthy foods so that they can start making good eating choices.
If you use this Crabbie to your advantage, you can teach children healthier eating habits in a way that is fun and power-struggle free. If you point out how they react to certain foods, children can learn these patterns and will be more likely to choose options that help them feel better.
We have found that after an episode of the Junk-Food Crabbies, it is valuable to sit down and explain that what they ate made them feel or act in a certain way and that together you can make better choices in the future to help them avoid such problems.
For example, we once knew a child who would start crying when the effects of a sugar rush wore off and she experienced the “crash”. When her mother explained that she felt that way because of eating sugar cereals, the little girl made the decision to throw away the entire box and wanted to eat better foods for breakfast. Other children have made choices to eat just a few candies after trick-or-treating and have traded in the rest of their bag to their parents in exchange for a toy.
For parents looking to optimize nutrition, we recommend focusing on natural, unprocessed, whole foods with high nutritional value, such as fruits, vegetables, proteins (e.g., eggs, poultry, meat, seafood), and healthy sources of fats (e.g., nuts, avocados, coconut) Talk to your pediatrician or a nutritionist if you are interested in advice on this topic.
Make it a great day!