Most parents would agree that getting kids to eat their vegetables can be a real challenge. It’s no secret that kids can be picky eaters, and unfortunately, that often means that veggies get pushed to the side in favor of more “kid-friendly” options like chicken nuggets or macaroni and cheese.
However, what many parents don’t realize is that there are actually some very good reasons to make sure those veggies end up on their kids’ plates. Recent studies have shown that there are some surprising mental health benefits that come with eating veggies.
What Does It Mean to Be Mentally Healthy?
Being mentally healthy is more than the absence of mental health disorders. For children, it means successfully reaching emotional and developmental milestones.
Children who are mentally healthy have good social skills and know how to manage daily stressors. They can also function well in most settings, including school, home, and the community.
Child mental health disorders affect the way children learn, act, and manage their emotions. This can cause them to feel unhappiness or frustration when faced with difficult situations.
4 Ways Veggies Benefits Kids’ Mental Health
Adding more veggies to your child’s diet can actually help improve their focus, concentration, and overall mood. Here are a few ways in which veggies can benefit your child’s mental health.
Veggies Improve Focus and Concentration
It’s no secret that kids these days have shorter attention spans than ever before. If you’ve ever tried to get your child to sit still for more than a minute, you know this to be true. Luckily, adding more veggies to their diet can help.
Studies have shown that children who eat a diet rich in vegetables tend to have better focus and concentration than those who don’t. If your child is having trouble paying attention in school or at home, try adding some extra veggies to their plate at mealtime.
Whole grains and lentils provide the brain with a consistent supply of glucose, fiber, and B-vitamins. These are nutrients necessary for proper cognitive function and growth.
Kale, lettuce, spinach, and broccoli are some of the best greens for kids. Studies show that these leafy vegetables help reduce cognitive decline, due to their rich supply of lutein, vitamin K, nitrate, and phylloquinone.
Veggies Help Reduce Stress and Anxiety
In today’s fast-paced world, it’s easy for kids to feel stressed or anxious—especially when faced with new and challenging situations. If your child is constantly worrying about things like school, friends, or extracurricular activities, it might be time to up their veggie intake.
Numerous studies have shown that a diet rich in vegetables can help reduce stress and anxiety levels. One paper published in the National Library of Medicine observed a consistent trend for the relationship between good-quality diet and better mental health and some evidence for the reverse.
Magnesium is helpful in lowering inflammation, metabolizing cortisol, and calming the body and mind. Meanwhile, protein-rich foods are perfect for balancing blood sugar levels. Consider adding these foods to your little one’s diet:
- Pumpkin seeds
Veggies Boost Overall Mood and Energy Levels
Not only do veggies help reduce stress and anxiety, but they can also boost overall mood and energy levels. Vegetables are packed with nutrients like vitamins B and C, which are known to increase energy levels and improve moods. If your child seems low on energy or down in the dumps, adding some extra vegetables to their diet could be the answer.
Veggies Protect the Bones
Dairy foods are often thought of as the ultimate bone defenders because of their high vitamin D and calcium content. However, vegetables are just as effective at protecting and strengthening children’s bones. Vegetables contain prebiotic fiber, magnesium, vitamin K, and potassium—nutrients that are necessary for bone development.
Tomatoes have recently been linked to bone health, according to one research. It found that people who removed lycopene-rich foods from their diets were more likely to develop osteoporosis and other bone-related conditions later in life.
Encourage your children to eat strong-spined, dark leafy greens to get their daily calcium and vitamin K needs. A few examples include turnip greens, collard greens, spinach, kale, green peas, and broccoli.
Mushrooms can be a rich source of vitamin D; meanwhile, onions, garlic, asparagus, and chard can be great fiber sources.
The Bottom Line
There are so many benefits of adding veggies to your child’s diet—not just for their physical health but for their mental health as well.
If your child is struggling with focus, concentration, stress, anxiety, or low energy levels, incorporating more vegetables into their diet could make all the difference. As an added bonus, teaching your child early on about the importance of eating healthy will set them up for success in the future.
So next time your child turns up their nose at broccoli or carrots, remember that there may be more benefits than you realize.