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Nutrition: Ask Elsa

Q I mind four children under six on a daily basis. I find they have become increasingly hyperactive, particularly after lunch. Is there anything diet-wise that I can do that would calm them down naturally?

AAbsolutely, even making small changes can make a big difference. First of all, I would advise that you check their food and drinks for additives. Artificial colourings, sweeteners and flavourings can all contribute to adverse behaviour, particularly the orange colouring tartrazine (E102) found in some squashes and brightly coloured sweets.

Secondly, I would suggest that you include a portion of good quality protein with their lunch. Often, children's lunches are mainly carbohydrate-based, with not enough protein added, so I would suggest that you include either chicken, turkey, tuna or eggs with their lunch. Protein helps keep blood-sugar levels balanced in children and also boosts mood and alertness levels.

Thirdly, I'd recommend that you swap all refined carbohydrates, such as white bread, pasta and rice, for their wholemeal alternatives. Our bodies break down refined carbohydrates into glucose very quickly, which can give kids a temporary rush of energy. Finally, I would get them to eat small meals regularly to keep their blood sugar levels even.

Make sure they have a snack in between breakfast and lunch and between lunch and dinner. Nuts, natural yogurt and fruit all make for a healthy and energy-balancing snack.

QMy 19-year-old granddaughter suffers with psoriasis. Her arms and legs are very bad and she has tried everything. Have you any dietary advice to improve symptoms before she starts college next month?

APsoriasis is a common skin condition that causes skin redness and irritation. The exact cause is unknown, however possible triggers include stress, infection, skin wounds, sunburn, candida, excessive alcohol intake and certain prescribed medications.

To keep symptoms at bay, it's important to keep your entire digestive system healthy. Sugar, red meat and dairy can increase inflammation in the body, so I would suggest you cut down on all of these. Alternate red meat with beans and lentils and substitute cow's milk with oat or rice milk.

Ensure you drink six to eight glasses of water per day.

With psoriasis, a high fibre intake is particularly important to maintain bowel health and elimination of wastes. Eat a diet with a good combination of raw and uncooked vegetables.

Whole grains, such as oats and brown rice, are also great sources of fibre and nutrients. Increase oily foods in your diet to provide better moisture to the skin and a barrier to help soothe irritations, ie olive oil, flaxseed, nuts, oily fish and avocados.

Elsa Jones is a nutritional therapist and presenter of How Healthy Are You? on TV3. Elsa offers one to one consultations to meet your health requirements. www.elsajonesnutrition.ie


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