Connected Speech Pathology
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Allison Geller's Blog

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Jump Start Language Development with Good Nutrition

Healthy eating and parents

Children are mostly influenced by what their parents or caregivers cook or eat and how food is talked about at home. Children follow what adults do and try imitating them. Therefore, caregivers play a key role in developing the eating habits of their child. Although it can be very challenging, adults should still encourage healthy choices for children. 

The best stage to develop healthy eating habits in your children is right from the beginning, when your child starts eating solids. According to a study presented at Nutrition 2018, the American Society for Nutrition's annual meeting, Kirsten Herrick, PhD from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the majority (61%) of infants already had added sugar in their diets with average daily consumption being 0.9 teaspoons. Nearly all (98%) of younger toddlers (ages 12 to 18 months) were consuming added sugar (an average of 5.5 teaspoons a day). Excess sugar can contribute to various childhood health problems such as obesity and cavities in teeth and later to major health issues such as cardiovascular disease and cancer. Extreme levels of sugar can also lead to mood swings, depression and anxiety. Processed foods, foods lacking in nutritional value and foods high in sugar can have a negative affect on cognitive development in children. 

Conversely, the omega-3 fatty acids found in salmon, tuna, and nuts have been shown to protect cognitive functions. By encouraging children to eat a diet filled with omega-3 fatty acids, protein, whole grains fruits and vegetables we are promoting good habits and a healthy lifestyle for the future. Breakfast should be nutritious so that the child can have a healthy start to the day. In my family, we eat a well-balanced breakfast which always includes protein, calcium, vegetables and fruit. It is helpful to allow children the option of choosing what they are going to eat so that they can learn from you what is considered a healthy choice and what is not. Choosing also gives children a sense of empowerment, motivation from within, and facilitates self-regulation.

Importance of good nutrition and language development

Why is good nutrition so important for language development? Good nutrition has beneficial effects on learning and concentration. This can subsequently have an impact on early language development. Nutritious foods like whole grains, leafy vegetable and legumes can act like brain boosters, improving intelligence, alertness, focus, and memory. 

When a child eats healthy and gets enough exercise (60 minutes/day is ideal for school-age children and adolescents), it results in improved mood, focus, decision making, and restful sleep at night. The child’s neurons are firing and new networks are being created in the brain. The child is alert and is able to pay attention. An overall healthy diet synergistically enhances cognitive development, and can be related to improved language and cognitive development in children. 

Suggestion for a healthy, kid-friendly meal

I love this one-bowl (easy clean up!) muffin recipe. I put it in my children’s lunchbox instead of a sandwich and I substitute 2-3 tablespoons of honey for the brown sugar.  Or they make a great breakfast as they are packed with protein, whole grains and fruit.

For more healthy kid-friendly recipes I suggest checking out WeeLicious and Helen Cavallo’s YouTube Channel