Eating for sleep: What should your child eat to sleep better?

May 8, 2017 | Nutrition & sleep

The one important aspect of sleep that we often forget about is nutrition. And this goes beyond just whether or not your child is full. Research has shown that WHAT our children eat plays a huge role in how well they sleep. So, what should your child eat to sleep better?

Eating for better sleep

Important nutrients that help your child sleep better

What should your child eat to sleep better

Various vitamins and minerals are key to encouraging good sleep. Check out some of the examples below for some great ideas of how to feed your child with sleep in mind!

  1. Tryptophan – an essential amino acid in the body – together with B vitamins helps create a neurotransmitter in our brain called serotonin. Serotonin, mostly known for it’s role in making us happy, is also key in regulating both appetite and sleep. Serotonin can be converted into melatonin – the hormone that helps regulate sleep and wake cycles. Needless to say, healthy levels of serotonin are crucial for a happy and well-rested child.
  2. Protein helps to balance blood sugar, and promotes consolidated night sleep.
  3. Iron aids dopamine production (another neurotransmitter), which in turn helps us fall asleep and stay asleep.
  4. The minerals zinc, calcium and magnesium are all natural muscle relaxants, and deficiencies in these minerals may have negative effects on sleep, and can lead to irritability and muscle tension.
    Did you know that zinc deficiency actually causes your child sense of smell to decrease, and foods taste more bland and unappetising? (Have you ever tried to eat mashed potato without being able to taste it properly?! Bleh…!) So when you ensure your child has a zinc-rich diet not only are you encouraging a good night’s sleep but you are also helping prevent pickiness!
  5. Omega-3 fatty acids, especially DHA, have also been shown to promote production of melatonin, encourage sleep, and reduce sleep disturbances.

What to feed and when?

Try giving your child their daily source of protein at lunchtime rather than at dinnertime. Protein can be hard to digest and may disrupt their little tummies, which can have a negative impact on nighttime sleep. Some great sources of protein are: beef, chicken, pork, fish, soya products, eggs, milk, yoghurt, pistachio nuts, pumpkin and squash seeds, and beans. 

Not sure what to cook yet? For detailed yet easy-to-read lists of the Top-10 foods for each of the nutrients above, and the recommended daily allowances at different ages for children, download your copy of “The Most Nutritious Food Lists” below.

>The Most Nutritious Food Lists<< (download here!)

Cooking a nutrition meal

A couple last tips regarding preparation of food for a nutrient-full meal!

  1. Home-made foods are much more nutrient dense than store-bought jarred baby food, so try to make as much as you can yourself.
  2. Steaming vegetables and fruit to make puree also helps the foods retain their nutrients, in comparison to boiling, where much of the important nutrients end up in the water.

Feeding your child can feel overwhelming and stressful, but if you start with the list and keep these tips in mind, you’ll be setting your child up for great sleep.

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