Using Nutrition to Help Your Child With Anxiety

Posted on: 2 September 2015

For anxious children, food can be a source of tension and stress. However, correct nutrition can do a lot to support your child's physical and mental state. Here are some ways to ensure they are getting the food they need.

Incorporate some good quality foods

A mix of high quality proteins, complex carbohydrates and vegetables is important to ensure your child has the best start to their day. Growing research suggests that incorporating omega-3 and omega-6 acids, which are found in seeds and fatty fishes such as salmon or tuna, are vital in the functioning of a healthy brain. They are linked to improved results for anxiety and depression, as well as other issues. Probiotics can also be a great addition to the diet for emotional issues such as anxiety, with some nutritionists describing the gut as a second brain.

Work out the foods or textures they prefer

If your child has a preference for certain colours or textures, which is common in children with anxiety, work out ways to modify the foods they need to eat. You can try breading chicken tenders in omega-3 enriched flours if they prefer a crunchier textured, or creating smoothies with flax seeds and yoghurt for kids who prefer to drink rather than eat solid foods. You can even try using some natural food colours to tweak the colours of foods if they have some specific colours that they won't eat.

Keep them hydrated

It can be tempting to withhold water until after a meal so that a fussy eater does not fill themselves up on fluids. However, even mild dehydration, can increase anxiety as well as leading to other uncomfortable side effects like constipation, which can be a risk for stressed out kids.

Try to keep it relaxed

If you are finding mealtimes have become a battle time, it's important to relax and try to bring some fun to meals. Try to eat as a family, but set a time frame where plates are cleared away and keep the focus on enjoying the time. Spend the dinner time discussing your days and sharing funny stories. By taking some of the focus away from the food you may find your child relaxes and eats more, as well as creating some positive associations around eating and meal times.

If you are still having issues with your child's anxiety, it can be useful to meet with a counsellor to discuss some of your options for helping kids with anxiety. A counsellor who specialises in childhood anxiety can help you to come up with action plan to help your family manage the condition.