You Are What You Eat: How Food Can Affect Your Child’s Mood


The terrible twos don’t always subside after the toddler years, and sometimes it can be hard to understand the cause of your child’s latest tantrum.

It may not just be down to coincidence that your child’s mood changes shortly after a snack – here are the most common mood-changing foods:




The number one culprit that doesn’t need an introduction. From diabetes to obesity, sugar is notorious for causing trouble when not consumed in reasonable amounts.

Sugar to an extent is unavoidable, as it is in just about everything the average child eats. Sugar can be found in ketchup, salad dressing, yogurts (one of the biggest culprits) and cereals to name a few. Things that are labeled fat free or low fat are usually jam packed with added sugar to make up for the loss of flavour from the removed fat.

Monitoring sugar intake is extremely important, as consuming large amount spikes insulin levels and sets the liver on over-drive. This process will throw off your child’s system, first making him/her extremely hyperactive before leading to the downward spiral of irritability and lethargy.

And if the mood-swings weren’t enough, sugar has been shown to cause long-term health damage, and a diet high in processed foods has been linked to depression, cognitive delay, and sleep problems.

Food Colouring


This one isn’t quite as obvious as sugar. Food colouring has been linked to causing mood changes in kids. Recent studies suggest that food dyes, such as those found in sweets like Skittles and certain breakfast cereals can have a dramatic affect on child’s cognitive function, causing hyperactivity and loss of focus.

Surprisingly, artificial colouring is also often hidden in unexpected foods like bread and yogurt.

Sodium Benzoate

Sodium Benzoate is a preservative found in many foods and sodas. In the very same study that found that food dyes were mood-altering, sodium benzoate was also noted as a culprit that was linked to causing kid’s to lose focus. Look out for Sodium Benzoate in juices and soft drinks.



Not necessarily a mood-changing food, but it can have negative affects on your child’s behaviour or mood if your child is either lactose intolerant or allergic to the proteins found in dairy. Many children become irritable, cranky, or aggressive. Children with dairy allergies or intolerance also tend to suffer from frequent colds and ear infections.

The Good Stuff

Whilst some foods can have a negative impact on your child’s mood, others can do the opposite by boosting cognitive function and helping to maintain a steady insulin level in the body.

High Fibre Foods & Complex Carbohydrates:

Be sure to feed your children foods that wont break down into sugars instantly, such as slow-to-digest oatmeal. Foods that are high in fibre and packed with complex carbs digest slower, which means no more spikes and crashes in energy for your children, and a happier, more consistent mood throughout the day.

Adding flaxseed and chia seeds to their morning oatmeal is a good way to promote this. Also, try substituting white rice and pastas for their healthier brown alternatives.


Studies suggest that foods high in Omega-3 promote better moods. Foods such as salmon, broccoli, blueberries, avocado and kidney beans can help maintain a healthy brain and keep your kids smiling.



Top tips to get excited kids asleep on Christmas Eve

With Christmas Day nearly upon us, many  parents in the UK will be dreading trying to get their kids asleep before Santa’s big day. Please find below five top tips from Professor Colin Espie, about how to get kids off to sleep before Santa drops in for his milk and cookies. Colin is a professor of sleep medicine at the University of Oxford and co-founder of Big Health, a digital health company.

His top five tips are:

1. Be active during the day

There is plenty of evidence that regular exercise can help you fall asleep faster and stay asleep through the night. One Australian study found that every hour a child spends inactive adds three minutes to the time taken to nod off. Take a break from Christmas movies and head to the park to help expend excess energy before bedtime. 

2. Stick to bedtime routines and rituals

A consistent bedtime routine, or a set of specific ‘rituals’ before lights out, will signal that it’s time to sleep. If you’re staying away from home, find ways to recreate parts of the routine, even if they are happening later than usual. Preparing for bed in the same order each night (such as bath, brushing teeth, stories, goodnight hug), will help with readiness for sleep, wherever you are. Even a few days of a consistent schedule should help your child settle into a new location. Bringing familiar bedding, toys and books will help them to relax and feel secure away from home. 

3. Act before your child gets overtired

Young children are often reluctant to admit that they’re tired – even more so when the alternative to bed is playing with shiny new toys. Look for signs of sleepiness before your child starts to get overtired, which is often the driver for ‘hyper’ behaviour.

Try to start the bedtime routine at a consistent time. If they really don’t feel tired, they can play quietly in their bed or crib with the lights low. If you notice that your child is often overtired at night, experiment by shifting the whole bedtime routine forward by 15-30 minutes. 

4. Give plenty of notice

Give plenty of notice when bedtime is coming up, and then stick to what you’ve said: “In 10 minutes the cartoon will end and it’ll be bath time, and then we’ll have time for two books.” 

A timer which rings when playtime runs out could be a useful ‘independent’ signal that it’s time for bed. If your child refuses to stay in bed, try to avoid giving extra attention for bad behaviour. Be as neutral and uninterested as you can as you return your child to bed, even if you have to do this a few times. Consistency is key – even at Christmas – to help the whole family sleep well.

5. And if all else fails…

With a house full of guests, your child may understandably feel as though they are missing out on all the excitement by going up to bed. If you’ve followed the tips above and still have a stubborn and weary young one hanging onto the bannisters in protest, the suggestion that Father Christmas only leaves presents for children who are asleep might just be enough incentive to encourage lights out.


About Big Health

Big Health was co­-founded in 2010 by former insomnia sufferer Peter Hames and world renowned sleep expert Professor Colin Espie. As the world’s first digital medicine company, Big Health creates automated evidence­-based behavioral programs using technology, thereby making them accessible by a wider audience. Big Health’s first product, Sleepio, is a digital sleep improvement program featuring Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) techniques, clinically proven to help overcome even long term poor sleep without pills or potions. The company is based in San Francisco, with offices in London and Glasgow. For more information on Big Health and Sleepio please visit www.bighealth.com.


Get help with your childcare costs before it’s too late

It is common knowledge that childcare costs are constantly on the rise and many parents struggle to continue to work and pay for childcare.  Yet many are missing out on substantial savings.  Parents paying for registered childcare can get help with their childcare costs through using Childcare Vouchers; however, time is running out to join a scheme.  Get help with your childcare costs now before it’s too late.

Kleinkind mit Rechenschieber 

The Government is expected to announce changes to the way in which parents can save money on their childcare in the forthcoming General Election.  They are launching a new Tax-free Childcare scheme in the autumn, which will provide parents with savings of up to £2,000 per child, each year.  This new scheme will see the closure of the current Childcare Voucher scheme, which enables each parent to save up to £933 per year, to new entrants after the autumn.  As well as launching the new scheme, some of the political parties are also promising the extension of the current 15 hour free entitlement to childcare per week for three and four-year olds.

Mother kissing her smiling child 

Looking at the savings available, Tax-free Childcare seems to be the obvious scheme for parents to use to maximise on childcare savings.  However, with Tax-free Childcare, the Government will be subsidising 20% of a child’s childcare, on costs of up to £10,000 per year.  Therefore, to get maximum savings, parents must spend £8,000 per child, each year.  To get the maximum savings using Childcare Vouchers, parents are only required to spend £2,916 each year.  Both parents can use Childcare Vouchers; therefore savings could double to more than £1,800 at an outlay of only £5,832 per family to get maximum savings.


Depending on your family’s circumstances, will depend on which scheme is best for you.  To use Tax-free Childcare, both parents have to be working, whereas with Childcare Vouchers, only one parent needs to be working to access the scheme.  Therefore, if your household has only one parent working, Childcare Vouchers are always the best option for your family.


As the Childcare Voucher scheme will be closed to new entrants after Tax-free Childcare is introduced, if they are the best option for maximum savings, now is the time to be getting on a scheme before it’s too late.  Childcare Vouchers are offered to you through employers.  If your employer does not already offer a scheme, speak to them about setting one up now to enable all those paying for registered childcare to benefit from more affordable childcare.

 Mother and daughter in the park

If Tax-free Childcare is going to be more beneficial for your family, there is no need to wait to make savings; you can still join a Childcare Voucher scheme now to make savings on your childcare costs before the new scheme is launched.  By doing so, you will have the right to choose whichever scheme is best for you when the time comes.


More details about the changes to childcare funding are expected to be released after the General Election.  For more information about Childcare Vouchers and your options, please visit www.busybeesbenefits.com or contact 0330 333 9100.



Being able to afford everything for your child, a lack of sleep and getting children to eat what you put in front of them have been named among the top challenges faced by parents, a study has revealed.


Researchers found nine in ten parents feel they face a series of challenges to bring up their children every day with having enough money at the top of the list.


Dealing with tantrums, encouraging children to work hard at school and do their homework and even getting them up in the mornings also rank highly.


Other hectic events mums and dads face include coping when a child is ill, giving your child what they want without spoiling them and going shopping with the kids in tow.


A spokeswoman for RESCUE REMEDY, which commissioned the research said: ‘’Everyone faces some challenges in their day-to-day lives, but for parents, these can be more difficult than most.


‘’As well as looking after yourself and making sure your day goes to plan, you also have to worry about everything your children do, or perhaps don’t do.


‘’Everything from getting them out of bed and to school on time, right though to making sure they eat the right foods and go to sleep at a decent time and without too much drama can make the average day frantic enough.


‘’But throw in the challenges which are always there, like money worries or whether you are doing the right thing in the way you bring up your children can mean many parents are often strained or tense.


‘’Being a parent is a demanding role, but it’s important all mums and dads get a chance to step back and relax at some point in their day.’’


The study of 2,000 parents found having enough money to afford everything that their child asks for is the biggest challenge faced on a daily basis, followed by dealing with a lack of sleep, having patience and encouraging their children to eat their meals.


Dealing with an ill child came fifth in the poll.


Keeping on top of the chores, encouraging children to do their homework and work hard at school, dealing with tantrums and getting children out of bed completed the top ten.


Other challenges on the list include coping with sibling rivalry, knowing how to answer all of their probing questions and toilet training.


Childcare features heavily among the list, with finding and juggling childcare as well as trying to work around an ill child in the top 20.


Other trials faced by parents include managing the school run, getting small children to sleep through the night and dealing with other competitive parents.


Researchers also found 83 per cent of parents feel they experience something challenging about being a parent every single day.


And eight in ten admit being a parent is more challenging than they thought it would be, with another 81 per cent believing it’s only going to get more difficult as their children get older.


But while one in twenty say the newborn and baby stage was the most challenging for them as a parent, a staggering 66 per cent say it’s the teenage years which they found most trying.


As a result of the daily trials and tribulations parents face, 87 per cent have days where they feel there aren’t enough hours in the day to get everything they need done.


And almost nine in ten have days where they feel under pressure or strained as they try to juggle everything in their lives.


Despite 88 per cent wishing they had more time to relax a little, the average mum and dad gets just five-and-a-half hours a week – less than an hour a day – to unwind.


One in twenty even claims they feel they never get time to truly relax.


A spokeswoman for RESCUE REMEDY added: “The research revealed an alarming nine out of ten parents face a series of challenges bringing up their child every day.


“Parents have so many roles and responsibilities to juggle and need to feel that they can accomplish all of these, without the underlying feeling that these can at times be too much to handle.


“RESCUE is trying to encourage parents to stop and take a moment out of their busy day with RESCUE REMEDY by their side.


“It is a combination of five Bach™ Original Flower Essences specially blended to provide support in times of emotional demand.


“The flower essences are Star of Bethlehem, Clematis, Impatiens, Rock Rose and Cherry Plum and it can be used anytime, anywhere and is suitable for all the family.”


Top 30 parenting challenges

1.     Being able to afford everything your child needs or wants

2.     Dealing with a lack of sleep

3.     Having patience

4.     Encouraging your child to eat their meals

5.     Dealing with an ill child

6.     Keeping on top of the household chores

7.     Encouraging your children to do all their homework

8.     Encouraging your child to work hard at school

9.     Tantrums

10.  Getting children up in the mornings

11.  Giving your child what they want without spoiling them

12.  Worries about whether you are doing the right thing

13.  Getting your child to eat fruit/veg

14.  Going shopping with children in tow

15.  Getting your child to clean their teeth properly, twice a day

16.  Getting time off work when your children are ill

17.  Encouraging your child to stay in bed at night

18.  Sibling rivalry

19.  Knowing the answer to all of your children’s questions

20.  Finding/juggling childcare

21.  Getting your child dressed in the morning

22.  Getting your baby/child to sleep at night

23.  Getting to work on time after the school run

24.  Getting your children to school on time

25.  Stopping your children from swearing or using bad language

26.  Getting your baby/child to sleep through the night

27.  Toilet training

28.  Tackling bullying

29.  Other competitive parent  

30.  Trying to keep your children from spending too much time in front of a computer/TV screens

Brought to you by:

The Digital Hub:  DigiHub


Parents feel banning junk food ads could cut childhood obesity

– Over 30,000 people sign petition to ban junk food adverts before 9pm watershed –

New statistics show the majority of UK parents believe stopping children being exposed to junk food adverts could cut childhood obesity, as the British Heart Foundation (BHF) delivered a 30,000 strong petition to ban the adverts before 9pm to Britain’s most famous street. (1)


The BHF polled 2,000 UK parents and found 60% of parents believe that stopping children being exposed to junk food adverts could help towards tackling the obesity crisis in children.

Almost seven in ten (69%) parents polled feel the UK Government should introduce stricter regulations on the food industry to better control how junk food is advertised to children.

 230315BHFjunk70 2

Six in ten parents (60%) say that adverts promoting foods that are high in saturated fat, salt and sugar affect what their children want to eat. Well over half (58%) say junk food adverts make it harder for them to say no to their children or get them to eat healthily.

Around 30% of children in the UK are overweight or obese, increasing their risk of being overweight and developing coronary heart disease in later life. (2) Research by The Food Standards Agency has found that TV marketing of food and drink products can influence children’s food preferences. (3)

Yet loopholes in the UK regulatory system mean that junk food adverts which are banned during children’s programming can still be shown during family programming, such as X-Factor, when children’s TV viewing peaks. (4)

More than 30,000 people have backed the BHF’s call for the Government to ban junk food adverts being shown before the 9pm watershed.

 230315BHFjunk58 2

The nation’s heart charity took the petition to 10 Downing Street and urged the Government to take action to tighten advertising regulations and protect children.

Mike Hobday, Director of Policy at the British Heart Foundation, said: “Junk food companies are exploiting legal loopholes in the regulatory system, allowing them to continue bombarding children with junk food adverts.

“Over 30,000 people have backed our campaign to ban these adverts before the 9pm watershed.

“By protecting young people against the sophisticated marketing techniques of junk food advertisers we can help tackle the obesity crisis which threatens the heart health of future generations.

“We urge the UK Government to heed the public’s clear call and take immediate action.”



The UKs largest inter-school cycling and scooting competition, The Big Pedal, is set to return in 2015 the charity Sustrans announced today.

The Big Pedal (March 2nd – 20th) is open to nurseries, primary and secondary schools and challenges them to compete against one another to make the most journeys to school by bike and scooter over 15 days.

Run by charity Sustrans and funded by the Bicycle Association on behalf of the cycle industry through its Bike Hub scheme, The Big Pedal has become the UK’s largest cycling and scooting competition.

Last year over 1,500 schools signed up to take part and pupils, teachers, parents, and siblings made over a million journeys (1,142,374) to school on their bikes and scooters in just 10 days.

Ben Merry, Programme Development Officer at Sustrans said:

“The Big Pedal is fun, inclusive and it helps schools to encourage whole families to lead more active lives, as well as reducing car traffic and pollution around the school gates.

“Although the competition runs for three weeks, it has a lasting effect on the way that the school community travel to school; last year 76% of schools who took part in the Big Pedal said that pupils continued to cycle and scoot to school following the event.”

By signing up to The Big Pedal schools will receive a wall-chart to record their progress, whilst a range of resources designed to support schools are available in the teachers section of the Sustrans website. Winning schools will receive prizes including bike and scooter stunt shows and equipment.

Phillip Darnton, Executive Director of the Bicycle Association, said:

 “Many youngsters love to ride bikes and scooters, and they do it because it’s fun. The Big Pedal shows children that cycling to school is not only fun, but that it can also help you to stay healthy, and helps reduce traffic around the school gates too.

“The Big Pedal, now in its 5th year, is three weeks of fun – and a lot more besides. I hope that schools will sign up right now and be ready for The Big pedal when it starts on March 2nd”.

Registration for The Big Pedal 2015 is now open.

To register your school go to: www.bigpedal.org.uk

ADY413 Amy Jo with Ethan Shackleton (white jumper) and Jay Mahon, all 9 years old, from Barlows CSFL4929


CBBC star shares top tips to get more children choosing water

Star of CBBC’s Gastronauts and Incredible Edibles Stefan Gates is sharing his top tips to encourage children to have fun with water and make it their first choice for hydration as part of a new campaign launched by the Natural Hydration Council (NHC) and Children’s Food Trust.

The Wise up with Water campaign has been launched after an NHC survey[i] found significant gaps in children’s knowledge and behaviour regarding healthy  hydration.

Water is essential for life[ii] and is one of the healthiest ways to hydrate, however, one in 10 (9.4%) of the 7-9 year olds surveyed believed that the body can survive without water.

Staying well hydrated is even more important for children as they are at greater risk of dehydration than adults due to their higher surface-to-body weight ratio and smaller reserves of body fluids.

Despite water being freely available in schools, only half (51%) of children questioned said they drank it at school, with four in ten (40%) having to be told to drink water by their parents. More than a third (35.1%) do not drink water when thirsty and over 40% (42.4%) don’t drink water whilst playing sport or exercising.

Stefan Gates has teamed up with the campaign to suggest fun ways parents and teachers can educate children about healthy hydration and to make water their drink of choice.

Stefan’s top tips for parents include:


Make water more fun


  1. Help your children to decorate their own personalised water bottle. Make them as cheeky as possible so they feel ownership over their own drinking habits.
  1. Ask your child to count how many bottles or cups of water your family drink each day. They’ll be surprised at how the numbers rack up and it can turn something mundane into a fun game.

3 Fun ice cubes can make a drink of water into an adventure. Fill an ice tray with slices of strawberries, grapes, blueberries or raspberry before putting it in the freezer. Add to beakers of water when desired.


4.Try this experiment: cut up an apple and weigh the slices, then leave them out on a plate uncovered for a week. Each day, weigh the apple slices and record the weight. Ask your children to think about why it loses weight as it dries up and they’ll soon start thinking about the importance of water.

  1. Demonstrate how a wilting plant, such as a basil plant, will perk up fairly rapidly once it has water to rehydrate its cells.

Help with habit forming

  1. We know that children copy their parents’ behaviour, so make sure you get into the habit of drinking water in front of your children.
  1. Repeated tastings of water may help kids to develop a taste for it. To make it more fun you could add ice, a slice of lemon or a curly straw.

Stefan said, “Water is essential for life, but it’s clear from this research that most kids don’t know or care about the right amount they need to be healthy and happy. And let’s be honest: telling kids ‘you’ll be healthier if you drink more water’ is doomed to failure, just like all adult finger-wagging.

“My job is to take boring, complicated but vital ideas like hydration and make them fascinating and inspiring for everyone age seven to 70. That’s why I’m dead excited about this campaign, and about teaching the nation’s kids some amazing things about the wacky world of water.”

Wise up with Water campaign materials is available to all primary school teachers and families across the UK. It includes curriculum-based lesson plans designed to creatively educate children on the role of water in the body and healthy hydration. Schools will also be able to win a ‘Wacky Water Challenge’ with Stefan Gates.

Children’s Food Trust Head of Nutrition Dr Patricia Mucavele said: “Sugary drinks can contribute to tooth decay and weight gain and provide little nutritional value.  Tooth decay and obesity are ever growing threats to our children’s health and helping them to develop good habits from a young age is essential to their future wellbeing. So we’re working with the Natural Hydration Council to highlight the benefits of drinking water.

“We’d like to see water much more available in schools and in public places ensuring children and adults alike having an easily accessible, healthy alternative to buying sugary drinks.”

Kinvara Carey, Natural Hydration Council said: “Encouraging healthy hydration habits and general awareness of basic nutrition from a young age is important. We hope through engaging with children in this way, they will be encouraged to consider their food and drink choices, and drink water, whether at school, at home or when they are on the move and continue to do so as teenagers and adults”.


For more information on the Wise up with Water campaign, please visit www.childrensfoodtrust.org.uk/schools/wise-up-with-water