The first five years of a child’s life are characterized by rapid physical and mental development. These years are critical in setting the path for a child’s future and well-balanced nutrition is a key component.
A 2013 study found that a lack of healthy food for children during the first years of life was tied to higher levels of behavioral and emotional problems.
The study – conducted by the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry – noted that children who are exposed to junk food during their early childhood are at a significantly increased risk for developmental mental health problems including anxiety and depression.
Good nutrition is essential for mental health – no matter what your age. Carbohydrates, fats, proteins, vitamins and minerals in food are essential parts of any diet that provide specific benefits for the body. A lack of any of these nutritional components can lead to physical difficulties and increased mental health problems.
- Encourage your children to eat a wide variety of foods to ensure they obtain the nutrients and vitamins they need.
- Make sure children eat three balanced meals each day. Missing meals, especially breakfast, leads to low blood sugar which causes irritability, fatigue and lower academic functioning in school.
- Exercise and physical activity is an important part of a child’s development.
The Children’s Defense Fund notes that ensuring children have access to healthy, nutritious food will ultimately improve educational outcomes, reduce rates of childhood obesity, and enhance the mental and emotional health of children.