Your Child’s Executive Functioning Needs to Go On a Diet
If you want your infant to develop healthy executive functioning (things like healthy working memory, planning abilities, organizing abilities, and behavioral inhibition) as they mature, you may want to put their executive functioning on a diet, a healthy diet. A study utilizing the data of 294 families involved in the STRONG Kids2 birth cohort study found the diet of 18-to 24-month-old infants correlated with their executive functioning. In this study, infants who ate more sugary snacks and processed foods were more likely to have problems with emotional control, behavioral inhibition, and planning and organizing—all components of executive functioning. That may not seem like a big deal for 2-year-olds. After all, “Kids will be kids.” But previous research suggests that children who had a higher consumption of sugary, processed foods also scored lower on academic tests than those who ate a healthy diet. And another study found that a healthy diet was associated with better executive functioning than a diet high in snack foods in both children and adolescents.
What’s the takeaway for our families? If we want our children to develop optimal executive functioning skills in the present and in the future–if we want our children to exhibit their greatest abilities to plan, organize, inhibit unwanted behaviors, and effectively manage emotions–put away the donuts, chips, and cookies. Have healthy snacks and drinks on hand instead. Keep a fresh supply of fruits, nuts, and water for your children to snack on. You’ll be nurturing better executive functioning which, in the long run, means greater academic success and healthier social relationships. Go ahead…have a snack…there’s apples in the fridge.