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  • The junior and leaving certificate exams are looming and lots of households are feeling the pressure.  Hopefully the work is mostly done, but there are some extra things that we as parents can do to ensure our children have the best chance of success.

    1. Sleep - get your child to bed early. Staying up late to study is counterproductive. Sleep deprivation leads to headaches, poor concentration, irritability and poor digestion.
    2. Fresh air and exercisemake sure your child gets out for a walk, or plays sport, every day. Exercise releases endorphins which always make us feel good. A walk with your child is a great chance to chat and hear their worries and concerns. Exercise makes us feel relaxed and sleep better. 
    3. Nutrition 
    • Provide food your child is used to - this is no time for drastic changes in diet, even if you have read about amazing food bound to double brain power! 
    • Ensure breakfast is eaten - good choices are eggs (full of choline which improves brain function), porridge, wholegrain bread with nut butters, sugar free muesli, natural yoghurt, berries, nuts and seeds.
    • Small meals - when the body is stressed, digestion is slower. A large meal will sit longer in the stomach and make you sluggish.
    • Water - a hydrated brain performs better and there is nothing better to do this than water.
    • Nutritious snacks - they keep the energy and concentration going. Examples are oat cakes, houmous, nut butters, tahini, seeds, nuts, goats' cheese and whole fresh fruit.
    • Avoid all sugary food - it gives a blood sugar spike and an hour later a blood sugar low. This upsets focus and concentration. Especially avoid sugary breakfast cereals, sweets, chocolates, cakes, biscuits, fruit juices and smoothies.
    • Avoid all refined carbohydrates - they give the same blood sugar spike as sugary food and are difficult to digest. They include anything made with white flour such as white bread and white pasta.
    • Avoid caffeinated drinks - including tea, coffee and sodas. Caffeine gives you highs and lows and can make you  jittery and over excitable. (However, if your child has caffeine every day, this is not the time to stop it as they will get withdrawal symptoms like headaches.)

    All the above will keep your child calm and help them concentrate........Good luck!

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    Are you worried about your child being overweight? Unfortunately this is becoming quite a common and difficult problem.  No one wants to make a child conscious of their weight  or give the child a self esteem issue. However, for the health of the child, being overweight is something we should be concerned about.  It is a disaster to introduce a child to dieting and get them on that cycle of yo yo weight loss/weight gain that will hamper them for life. However, there are simple lifestyle changes that you can make for the whole household which will benefit everyone and  reduce your child's weight.

     5 steps to weight loss in children

    1. Cut out all sugar in the house - the less sugar a child has, the less they want. Sugar is an addictive substance which is responsible for weight gain in so many of our children. It can  also be responsible for mood swings, hyperactivity, headaches and children unable to fall asleep at night.  It is in cakes, sweets, biscuits, breakfast cereal, fizzy drinks,  yoghurts and many savoury prepared foods you would not suspect.

    2. Avoid processed food - when food is processed, its structures are often broken down, so the body is quick to digest them. This means we tend to eat more of these foods as we do not feel full. For example it takes longer to digest an apple  than a biscuit and we stay fuller for longer after eating the apple.

    3. Avoid refined carbohydrates - that includes white bread (including bagels, wraps and pittas), white rice and white pasta. All bread, pasta and rice should be wholegrain. Refined carbohydrates are very close in structure to sugar and therefore  have the same effect on the body.

    4. Drink only water - fruit juice  and smoothies have very high sugar content with little of the fibre of the fruit that the body needs.

    5. Eat half a plate of vegetables (excluding potatoes) at your main meal and 2 pieces of fruit a day. This will ensure you get the necessary vitamins, minerals and fibre for your digestive system to function.

    Do not worry about complicated diets that make life stressful. Change your shopping trolley in accordance with the 5 steps above and everyone in the house will feel healthier and lighter. Your child will not feel they have been singled out for individual treatment for being overweight or even know that you are concerned.  Do not put emphasis on calories because not all calories are equal - it is the quality of food that is important.

    Avoid referring to sweets, icecreams and cakes as "treats" and avoid rewarding with food. This just establishes a pattern of comfort and self indulgent eating in times of stress or anxiety.

    If you feel your child is still not losing weight, I would recommend food intolerance testing by a registered kinesiologist. Some food is difficult for some individuals to digest and can upset the production of energy by the body. This can result in gaining unnecessary weight.  Removing the offending food from the diet can reduce weight and prevent further weight gain.

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    I am delighted to see that the Government is contemplating legislation to restrict even more fast food outlets being situated around schools. Such legislation needs public support.

    Teenagers make instant decisions about food - when they are hungry they buy what is convenient. Teenagers rarely consider the  health implications of their choice because these implications are not immediate - eating a burger does not give you an instant adverse reaction. However, eating processed food over a number of years gives many health problems. Our digestive systems have not evolved fast enough to deal with the processed food now eaten in such large quantities. The vast numbers of people with digestive/ibs symptoms visiting doctors and complementary practitioners shows that as a country we are getting something very wrong.

    We can do nothing about the convenience shops and fast food outlets already situated next to our schools but every extra one prevented is worthwhile. St Joseph's Mercy Secondary School in Navan is waiting to hear if it is to get a KFC right next door. KFC would not want to site a restaurant there if they did not think that there was a ready market for its product. I hope the planners take on board the concerns of the school in coming to their decision.

    Legislation can only do so much. As I have said before, we have to educate our teenagers to make the right decisions about the food they choose. There will always be fast food outlets and convenience stores ready to take their money for "food" of no nutritional value. Make sure there is plenty of nutritious food at home to pack for the day and limit the money they have available to spend. Small steps can make a big difference to health over 6 years at senior school.

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    Who would have thought that there was a link between radiation from a mobile phone and morning sickness? A pregnant client of mine recently came looking for some relief from her dreaded morning sickness that was preventing her functioning on even a basic level. Her body tested for mobile phone radiation. She confessed to having her phone with her at all times and sleeping with it next to her bed. She removed the phone from her bedroom and kept it at a distance when she did not need it and her morning sickness disappeared.

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