How much does what your (step)kids eat affect their behavior and their health? Several studies are demonstrating that what goes into your kids’ tummies has a great effect on what comes out their mouths and their bodies in their actions and attitudes. Two authorities (among many, many others) have weighed in on this discussion that I’ll quote from and direct you to for more full information: The Physicians’ Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) and Barbara and Paul Stitt, authors of “Food & Behavior.”
In her book, Food & Behavior, Barbara Stitt tells of her career as a juvenile parole officer and her experiments with her clients’ diets. In changing these delinquents’ diets from junk to healthy food, Stitt discovered time and time again:
The connection between food and behavior is so basic that it is being over looked by parents, the school system, counselors and most of the medical professionals.
Ask any hyperactive child, depressed, angry teenager, violent adult or criminal what they eat and you’ll find they “live” on junk food – sweetened boxed cereals, candy, carbonated drinks, potato chips, fast foods.
Junk food abuses the mind, undernourishes the body and distorts the behavior.
She goes on to investigate the reasons behind the overpowering effects of some foods on peoples’ actions and emotions:
“… food allergies can provoke lethargy, stupor, disorientation, paranoia, delusions, hallucinations, distraction, agitation, rage, panic, convulsive seizures and coma. …
“In the United States, for instance, the most common allergies are to milk, wheat and corn, followed by coffee, egg, potato, orange, beef, pork, yeast, beet, cane, tomato, peanut and soy.”
So, food allergies may be behind your (step)child’s food related acting out. Have you ever had your kids tested for food allergies? Perhaps you should!
BEYOND AND BEHIND THE ACTING OUT
So, what is a responsible parent to do to protect their children (and themselves) from the effects of harmful foods and the additives in them? In an article on their web site (at http://www.pcrm.org/health/veginfo/vegetarian_kids.html), the PCRM suggests:
Encouraging children to eat well, right from the start, will have a positive impact on them in the future, affecting health, weight, and need for medical treatments. Unfortunately, with the mixed messages we hear from the media, obtaining accurate information on nutrition can present a challenge.
In May 1998, the seventh edition of Dr. Spock’s Baby and Child Care was published. In it, Dr. Spock recommends a vegan diet for children. This sparked a long overdue discussion about the scientific and practical issues of optimal diets for children. In response, this document was prepared by a panel of nutritionists to address three main areas: the advantages of vegetarian and vegan diets, the safety of vegan diets, and planning meals for children.
The results of this discussion and study were the following recommendations:
Vegetables, grains, fruits, legumes, and nuts are the optimal foods for children. Rich in complex carbohydrates, protein, fiber, vitamins, and minerals, they form the foundation for dietary habits that support a lifetime of health. Research indicates that adults who consume fruits and vegetables are those who consumed these foods during childhood.
Here are some of the long-term advantages of plant-based diets:
- The prevalence of hypertension among vegetarians is about one-third to one-half that of non-vegetarians. A study of Caucasian Seventh-day Adventists found hypertension in 22 percent of omnivores [meat & vegetable eaters], but only 7 percent of vegetarians. Among African Americans, the prevalence was 44 percent of omnivores and 18 percent of vegetarians. Adopting a vegetarian diet significantly lowers blood pressure in both normal and hypertensive individuals.
- Cholesterol levels are much lower in vegetarians. Vegetarian diets reduce serum cholesterol levels to a much greater degree than is achieved with the National Cholesterol Education Program Step Two diet. In one study published in The Lancet total cholesterol in those following a vegetarian diet for 12 months decreased by 24.3 percent.
- Cancer rates for vegetarians are 25 to 50 percent below population averages, even after controlling for smoking, body mass index, and socioeconomic status. One study found that people who include generous amounts of fruits and vegetables in their daily diets have lower rates of cancers of the lung, breast, colon, bladder, stomach, mouth, larynx, esophagus, pancreas, and cervix compared to people who avoid such foods.
- Obesity is a major contributor to many serious illnesses, and is much less common among vegetarians, compared to the general population. Vegetarians are, on average, about 10 percent leaner then omnivores.
- Plant-based diets may encourage a later menarche, which has been shown to be associated with reduced risk of breast cancer in epidemiologic studies.
- Fruits and vegetables contain antioxidant substances, such as vitamin C, vitamin E, and carotenoids, which protect cells against oxidative damage, which is related to cancer risk and other health problems. The multitude of phytochemicals found in various fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes, and nuts are thought to protect against heart disease and cancer.
American Dietetic Association’s Opinion
Let’s look a little deeper. What does the American Dietetic Association have to say about the wisdom of “limiting” children to a non-animal-based diet? PCRM’s article goes on to address this question, also:
Given these advantages, does evidence show that vegan diets adequately meet the nutritional needs of children? The answer is clearly yes. According to the American Dietetic Association’s position paper on vegetarian diets, “Appropriately planned vegan and lacto-ovo-vegetarian diets satisfy nutrient needs of infants, children, and adolescents and promote normal growth.”
In one study, pediatric developmental tests in vegetarian children indicated mental age advanced over a year beyond chronological age, and mean IQ was well above average (with an average of 116 points), providing reassurance that brain development is normal.
WHAT IT ALL MEANS
What have we learned today?
Your children’s behavior is most definitely affected by what you feed them (or allow them to eat), and that behavior always affects your relationship with them. At the very least, their behavior affects your ability to effectively communicate with them regarding rules, your wishes, their attitudes, and so much more.
They may well be allergic to at least some of the food you give them, and these allergies could very well be affecting your children’s reactions toward you and other authorities in their lives. Conflicts with teachers, other children, siblings, and you are high prices to pay for taking the easy way out regarding what to feed the young’uns. Yes, fast food is more convenient, but what are the results: defiance, low grades, possibly even doctor visits and mood altering medications to correct the affects of poor food choices.
Vegetables, greens, dairy substitutes (soy, almond, rice), alternate sources of protein (beans, greens, tofu, nuts). All these choices are available and, after some practice, just as convenient. The PCRM article (see the link below) also includes food choice suggestions for your kids to help them accept the healthier options.
The choice is really yours. As a parent or stepparent, how much of a gamble do you want to take? Make your life easier. Make your children’s lives better, and their future brighter. Bless them with a healthy diet.
[See the original PCRM article HERE]