top of page

Tackling your child’s anxiety through food

Children may get anxious in a variety of situations like starting school, or even returning to school after the summer break. This is a perfectly normal feeling; it’s our bodies innate survival instinct to be prepared to ‘fight or flight’ to the unknown. Usually this is short-lived and explainable, however for some children these feelings of worry and fear may last a lot longer, may be more intense, or may extend to other situations. Their anxiousness may be interfering or stopping them from participating in school or social activities or their fears and worries may seem out of proportion compared to other children of their age. They may experience unexplainable headaches, tummy aches, insomnia and muscle tension, becoming quite creative at getting out of the activity or situation that they don’t know want to be in. Around 7% of children in Australia are affected by some sort of #anxiety issue.

There is increasing evidence suggesting that the food we eat affects our mood and our #behaviour. Similarly, the food we choose can be linked to the mood we are in (think chocolate/sugar cravings to boost low moods!). It may therefore be worth considering the following points to help support your anxious child.

Is your child eating a range of fruit and vegetables?

Eating a wide range of fruit and vegetables is unarguably important for everyone. And for the anxious child, nutrients found in vegetables, like Magnesium, can assist in calming and relaxing your child. Berries, apples, kale, spinach and broccoli are high in antioxidants. These antioxidants can reduce oxidative stress and support the immune system which has a knock-on effect reducing anxiety.

  • Aim for a rainbow of fruit and vegetables across the week as each colour is helpful for a different reason.

Is your child eating too much sugar?

Sugar is everywhere! It’s not just lollies, cakes and soft drinks but it’s also found in many flavoured yoghurts, juices, low-fat products and even savoury foods like tomato ketchup. White bread and white rice also break down easily and quickly into simple sugars.The problem with all these simple sugars is that they spike blood sugar levels causing the release of insulin which then reduces the blood sugar levels quickly. The brain reacts by sending out adrenalin (a neurotransmitter) as the body thinks it needs a quick energy boost as it’s now in ‘survival mode’ (which, of course, it’s not really). The outcome may be panic attacks.