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New habits for a new happier term

Get the uniforms ready, check for mouldy lunch boxes in the school bags, and brush everyone’s hair – it’s time to go back to school.

The start of a new term is a good time to start some new habits.

Improving behaviour and mood is a great motivator to make some changes to the routine, so here are my top 5 habits to implement.

Go to school on an egg or paleo bread.

Ditch the Weetbix or toast.

These foods are highly inflammatory, high glycemic index, and lacking in nutrients.

Eggs, on the other hand are a good source of fat and protein, high in choline (a nutrient needed to produce acetylcholine, an important neurotransmitter for memory, mood, muscle control, and other brain and nervous system functions).

If your kids are fixated on a “toast-like” breakfast, try my paleo coconut bread.  It has lots of eggs, and quite frankly it’s like having cake for breakfast.  Your child will focus better, and won’t be hungry as quickly

Include two veggies in the lunch box.

The closer a diet is to a Mediterranean diet, the less their chance of developing ADHD.

Mediterranean diets are high in fresh, seasonal fruit and veggies.

Primary school aged children need 5 serves of vegetables a day. If you try to get all 5 serves into dinner, you will never get there.  By having one serve at munch and crunch, and one serve at lunch, you might just get to the 5 serves.

As well as containing lots of important nutrients, and being low glycemic index, they also displace less nutritious food from the lunchbox.

Mix it up and try different veggies until you find ones your child will eat.  You can have traditional crudité types like carrots, cucumber or capsicum.  Or try leftover cooked veggies from the night before – some broccoli which has been roasted with bacon, or sweet potato chips.  Don’t give up if they come home for the first few days, new habits take time!

No devices at the dinner table.

School holidays (especially wet ones!) can involve lots of iPad and TV.

They might even creep up to the dinner table, even if they don’t usually.

So starting from Monday, put them away again!

Screen time has a bad effect on children’s behaviour, and they will already have spent time in front of a screen at school.  Dinner is a time to socialise, talk about how everyone’s day went, and enjoy a shared meal.  Children who eat dinner together with their parents have better vocabularies.

Of course, it is not always possible to get the whole family together every evening, so just make an effort to achieve it at least a few times a week.

Get outside and get moving!

ADHD has been called nature deficit syndrome, so get the kids out for an hour every day.

Prisoners get more outdoor time than school kids do!  It a great chance for parents to de-stress and get some exercise too.  Adults should be getting 10,000 steps day (your iPhone measures this for you!).  So grab the bikes or scooters and get the kids out for an hour of exercise.

They will eat their dinner quicker and sleep better.

Start a ferment.

Fermented foods have a really positive effect on our gut health, and our brain health is directly related to our gut health.  I see such positive results in improving behaviour and anxiety when children start to eat fermented foods.

There are lots to choose from, you can ferment most things (even fish!).

One of the easiest ones is sauerkraut juice.  Once you have made it, just include it in foods and dressings (don’t heat it).

My other favourite is milk kefir, for children who tolerate dairy.  Children who can’t have dairy can have coconut or water kefir instead.  It may be very daunting to start fermenting, and you may have a few fails, but just have a go.  Before we had fridges, fermenting was how we preserved vegetables.  People didn’t know about different bacterial strains, or the effect on their gut health.

It was just a tradition and a way of life.

Tips for surviving the school holidays

Set meal and snack times and stick to them.

Kids tend to want to graze all day long during the holidays.

This grazing tends to be on snack food, rather than proper food.

The end result is that they don’t want to eat their dinner, and the cycle of snacking continues.

It can be really useful to agree on meal and snack times for the holidays.  So if a child says they are hungry outside of these agree times, you can tell them how long they need to wait.  Eating real food, and not just snacks is better for stabilising blood sugar. Low or high blood sugar has a big impact on mood.

Snack food also tends to have more flavours, colours and preservatives which are linked to ADHD symptoms.

Choose where you are going to eat out very carefully.

It’s nice to eat out in the holidays, however as you are going to be doing it a few times, you need to choose locations very carefully.

You can’t expect to take your child somewhere which serves junk food and expect them to go for a healthy option.

There isn’t a child on earth who would go to McDonalds and choose the salad!

When you go to a café, the kids menu is usually junk – chicken nuggets and chips, so avoid the kids menu at all costs.

It is much better to find somewhere that has adult meals you can share between a couple of kids, or between a parent and a child.

Stay away from deep fried foods, as the oil that is used is really inflammatory, and you really want to decrease inflammation in your child’s brain.

Monitor your how food is affecting your child’s mood.

Download my free food and symptom diary, and use this to help.

Write down everything your child eats and drinks, and how their mood is.

When you are with them all day long, and you do this for a few days, you may be able to see patterns between what they are eating and drinking and how their behaviour is.

Screen time.

Screens are hard to avoid during the holidays, and it is fair to say that most families will use devices as baby sitters at least some of the time.

There is a strong association between screen time under the age of 3 and ADHD.  Under the age of five, kids should have less than 60 minutes per day.  The screen time should be educational and watched with a parent.

How often does that happen?

Screen use can affect concentration, focus, mood and behaviour.  So keep screens to a minimum, and instead use the holidays to get your children into nature as much as possible.  ADHD has been called nature deficit syndrome, and being outdoors really helps sleep quality, which helps behaviour

Sleep.

Every parent knows that the last couple of weeks of term are a nightmare when it comes to kid’s behaviour.

Kids get very tired, and everything becomes a drama.

That makes it really important to use the holidays to catch up on rest.  Don’t overschedule your kids.  Allow time for boredom and creativity.

If you let them stay up late every night, the new term will start the same way the last one finished.

So set boundaries and limits to make sure everyone gets a rest.