Eating well for mental health

Children eating vegetables

It’s the final day of Mental Health Awareness Month, so we’ve enlisted Royal Far West Dietician, Alison, to explain about the links between eating well and good mental health

It is estimated that only 0.5% of Australian children are eating enough fruit and vegetables each day. The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare recommends the minimum recommended number of serves of vegetables per day is 2½ for children aged 2–3; 4½ for children aged 4–8; 5 for children aged 9–11. But what affect is this having on kids’ mental health?

Royal Far West Dietitian Alison explains, “eating well is linked to mental health. Young people who eat a diet rich in wholefoods are 50% less likely to develop depression, whereas young people who eat a lot of junk snacks and processed foods are 80% more likely to develop depression. Changing diet can actually be an effective treatment strategy for combatting depression in children.”

So, what does Alison recommend?

“To eat well for mental health, try to include:

Oily fish like salmon, trout, sardines or mackerel at least twice a week. These foods contain essential fat needed by the nervous system called omega 3.

Wholegrain foods such as wholemeal bread, brown rice and wholegrain pasta

Plenty of vegetables and 2-3 servings of fruit per day

A small handful of nuts each day

Cooking with and eating unsaturated fats like extra virgin olive oil and avocado

Adding more pulses. This could include peas, baked beans, chickpeas (in hummus), kidney beans or lentils.

 

I would also recommend limiting junk snacks can really help to improve mood. Most Australian children eat 7 “extra”/ junk foods a day. Ideally this should be one junk food every other day. Buying less snacks for children to snack upon is a great strategy.”

Additional stats provided by the Food and Mood Centre