As a parent of five, it didn’t take long for me to discover what all parents know about their children. Food affects mood. When my children are moody, irritable, cranky, or whiney I know it is likely that they are hungry, or they have had too much junk food. Even as adults, food, or the lack thereof, can affect us emotionally and mentally. I struggle with blood sugar issues and often don’t know I am hungry before I start snapping at the people closest to me. A stint of poor eating will make me moody, tired, and not very enjoyable to be around. The great thing is, when I feed the kids, or feed myself well our moods change! We become positive, happy people again.
Recently, studies in the field of mental health have reported that food may have more than a short-term effect on our moods. Mental health issues such anxiety depression, schizophrenia, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and Alzheimer’s disease have all been linked, at least in part, to diet. More alarming for parents may be the evidence that 75% of mood disorders emerge during adolescence and early adulthood with anxiety disorders beginning as early as age 6, and depression as early as age 13.
Fortunately, there is hope for parents and it is a close as the kitchen pantry. An Australian study of over 3000 adolescents reported that diet is linked to mental health in teens regardless of age or gender. Further the report indicated that as the quality of the teens’ diets increased so did the level of their moods and feelings of well-being in all the areas of their lives.
So what are some positive steps you can take to turn your moody teen into a happy teen? First, realize your teen is growing quickly, both physically and emotionally, and their body needs a lot of good nutrition and exercise to keep up with all that is happening. It is truly like their body is outgrowing their brain. Parents of teens have seen the signs; moodiness, forgetfulness, testing boundaries, trouble sleeping or sleeping more than usual. My teens’ likes and dislikes change like the weather in the Midwest!
Secondly, take a good look at your teen’s diet. Limit or cut out sugary drinks and processed (box) food and increase fresh vegetables and fruits, lean proteins, whole grains, and water. Lots of water! Most teens are walking around dehydrated. Get your teens involved by asking them what they would like to eat. It’s not going to do any good to bring food into your home that your teens will not eat. For some teens the change in diet may be a process, be patient, take it slowly, and give them choices. When they realize they feel better physically and emotionally, they will make good choices on their own!
Another positive step to turn your moody teens into happy teens is to get them moving! The lack of physical exercise in teens, and adults, is a huge contributor to the obesity epidemic in the U.S. Being overweight raises the chances of not only chronic diseases like diabetes, heart disease, and cancer but mental health issues as well. Since our children were very young their access to technology has been based on how much time they spend outdoors. During the summer, they spend very little time on their electronic devices. If you live in a place that has limited outdoor space, find a community center, YMCA, or park. For those days our children can not be outside due to weather, they have three different game consoles with video games that require them to move their entire bodies. These are great family fun!
The study of the link between diet and mental health is relatively new in the mental health field. There are more recent findings on the affect diet has on the mental health of adults than on teens, however, both areas of study are growing quickly.
Have you decided to make healthy positive changes in your and your teen’s lives? Find out where to start with great coaching tips, recipes, and articles at www.livewelldreambig.net. Would like a partner to walk alongside you as you make positive steps toward a healthier life? Read more about Wellness Coach Leisa Crawley at www.livewelldreambig.com.
A Prospective Study of Diet Quality and Mental Health in Adolescents
Felice N. Jacka mail ,Peter J. Kremer, Michael Berk, Andrea M. de Silva-Sanigorski, Marjorie Moodie, Eva R. Leslie, Julie A. Pasco, Boyd A. Swinburn Published: September 21, 2011