This can show in day-to-day health problems such as eczema and asthma (both much more common that they used to be), sleep problems, weight issues or regular colds and flus, all signs that a child’s body systems are under par.
Teachers also report that many of their students can’t seem to concentrate or focus properly, and have difficult sustaining their energy through a school day. Some are even falling asleep in the first lesson! Excess sugar and additives may perhaps be common culprits, but so also is a poor balance of carbohydrates and protein, which I see very regularly.
Some studies suggest that more serious problems such as ADHD or eating disorders may be linked to specific nutrient deficiencies (such as essential fats or minerals), which can often be easily corrected. Dietary change, the use of supplements, and tests to identify food intolerances or nutrient deficiencies are all options which can be explored in these cases.
The new standards for school meals will help, but many children – and their parents! –may benefit from additional support, whether it’s to prevent a very young child from getting so many infections or to help with the behavioural, weight, skin or sleep problems of an older student.
What’s important when working with young people of all ages is to encourage gradual dietary change so that they can be persuaded to get used to different foods over time. The payback often extends to the whole family as family meals begin to change for the better! And as children or older students can see improvements in how they are feeling, they are often encouraged to continue to eat differently.
It’s also vital not to make their diet a big issue or a straitjacket. I encourage young clients to think of eating healthily 80% of the time, leaving plenty of scope for treats and favourite snacks at other times.
I am motivated to work with children because I am thoroughly convinced that getting their diets 80% right can have a major influence on their future life chances if they can learn which foods keep them healthy, happy and bright.
Note: I regularly give talks on food and health to students (and teachers!) in schools across the county. See Support for Schools.