Saturday, 2 November 2013

Are We Really What We Eat?

One of our principals recently commented that the two days she dreads most in the year are Halloween, and the morning after. The excitement that ramps up through the day as costumed children prepare for their nocturnal candy collection is only matched by the sugar induced frenzied behaviour that follows.  A CBC news report  indicated that by visiting only 15 houses the average trick or treater could take in over 60 candy bars with a calorie count of nearly 5000! Thats the equivalent of 3 cups of sugar and over a cup and a half of fat - something for the adults to keep in mind as well when we're helping ourselves to "just a few" of the small treats.

Its a common belief that too much chocolate can cause a sugar high that adversely affects student behaviour. Oddly enough scientific research does not support this theory. Studies done with preschoolers indicated that binging on chocolate did very little to induce hyperactive behaviour. Neuroscience For Kids, a blog maintained by the University of Washington, has a very comprehensive entry describing the pros and cons of chocolate consumption. It also suggests chocolate doesn't adversely impact behaviour, but does mention that its not the healthiest of snack choices.

 There is, however, lots of evidence that what, and how, children eat impacts how they behave. Over the past few decades processed foods have become increasingly common. Many of these foods contain a multitude of chemicals including preservatives and food colourings that have been linked to ADHD and other changes in behaviour in children. Heavily processed foods, though convenient, have also been linked to increases in food sensitivities and allergic reactions.

According to MotherInc.com, an Australian magazine for mothers of school age kids, another huge trigger for behaviour is meal skipping. Cereal companies have been telling us for years that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Turns out they are right! A hungry or malnourished brain is not equipped for learning. Ironically, hungry people often turn to sugary treats for a quick hit of energy, resulting in the type of eating habits that lead to weight gain and the type of behaviours that have given such treats their bad reputations. Its not necessarily the chocolate thats to blame, but the overall combination of bad nutritional habits, highly processed foods and over active lifestyles that add up to a behavioural nightmare, not just after Halloween but anytime of the year.

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