Last updated on Jun 22nd, 2021 at 11:30 am

Whenever I witness the early warnings of a tantrum coming on, the first thing I do is check when and what my daughter last ate. Thatâ??s because mood swings in children are largely attributed to diet and blood sugar levels.

Feed children food to maintain healthy blood sugar levels

Think how you feel if you havenâ??t eaten for a few hours â?? moody, irritable and even tearful are the emotions that many of us experience when our blood sugar levels drop. Young children (and even some adults) who havenâ??t yet learned how to contain their emotions in a social situation, are often reacting to signals from their bodies.

The importance of a healthy, sustaining breakfast

Iâ??ve already highlighted the virtues of a low GI diet â?? where maintaining a healthy weight and a constant energy supply depends on eating food that makes us feel full for longer (

The same applies to children. A primary school teacher who taught me, told my mother that she could pick out the children who came to school without eating breakfast â?? or those who had only had Coco Pops to eat. 

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By 10am, when blood sugar levels dropped, there was a distinct lack of concentration displayed by children who hadnâ??t had a sustaining breakfast.

Porridge (like oats), or low GI bread and preferably some form of protein (in the form of eggs or peanut butter for example) will help to keep your children alert and focused until snack time.

Lunch box contents for children

Donâ??t fill your childâ??s lunch box with sweets, refined foods like white bread and cake, or biscuits and fast food containing trans fats. These will cause brief sugar highs, accompanied by sharp drops in blood sugar and energy later.

Bananas, whole wheat bread, yoghurts, unprocessed cheese, carrot sticks and biltong are great snacks that donâ??t take ages to prepare in the mornings. Choose food that you know your child enjoys and not items that you hope they will eat â?? they will only swop these for more appetizing snacks.

Beware the school tuck shop

Be careful of giving your child money for the tuck shop every day as you then have no control over what they eat. Many school tuck shops now offer healthier alternatives but the cokes, pies, chips and sweets packed with colourants are still there too â?? and who will be able to check what your child is choosing?

I live at a boarding school and am horrified to see all the white bread, mash, chips and puddings that are piled onto plates, while the vegetables, salad and fruit go ignored: the healthy choices are there but many children will ignore them.

Help for overweight children

If you are concerned that your child is overweight, try to implement some subtle changes in their diet without making a big deal of their weight. Chances are they will already have received negative comments at school and you donâ??t want them to feel self conscious at home too.

Use fructose instead of sugar to sweeten cereal and hot drinks â?? fructose is more natural than refined sugar and doesnâ??t cause blood sugar spikes and put as much pressure on the pancreas.

Buy baked instead of fried crisps â?? there are many chip brands on the market that advertise that they are baked instead of fried, so your children are consuming less oil.

Use fat-free instead of full cream milk â?? in cereals, Milo etc where your child wonâ??t notice the taste difference â?? fat-free milk is still full of calcium â?? essential for children right up to teenage years.

Donâ??t forget the importance of exercise – buy bicycles for the family or join a tennis club â?? your children will appreciate that you want to spend time with them and youâ??ll all be fitter and healthier too.