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How a Martial Arts Mom Tackles Food Shopping

By Rochelle Brenner

How do you get the best mental and physical performance out of your child?


The answer is like the credit card commercial: What’s in your shopping cart?


As a martial arts instructor, my most basic goal is to help families be at their best. There are a lot of factors that contribute to a child’s behavior: their personality, daily habits, personal security, sleep, screen time, sibling interaction, traumas, health, the moon, the day of the week, a cavity, a medication, a learning preference, an uncomfortable shirt, a gummy worm.


We can’t control all of these things. We can try but we can’t. When parents ask me for tips, I often turn to food. We all eat. We can all change what, when and how we eat. And universally, these tips are beneficial for children and adults no matter the other circumstances.


Some children are more sensitive to food than others. I saw this first hand when my friend’s daughter ate a single gummy worm. She was 11 years old and autistic and for the rest of the night, she was loopy. She almost seemed to be drunk. Her mom put her in a warm bath and took hours to calm her down. That’s not a scientific study but interestingly enough, she let her child have one gummy worm another time and experienced the same symptoms.


The effect of most foods on most kids isn’t this dramatic but it’s probably the difference between your child focusing for 22 minutes of karate class or 30. That’s a huge difference. Multiply that by dozens of classes and your child’s skills and achievement could be so much better. Having the right fuel makes a difference.


You don’t have to follow this 365 days a year -- only when you are going food shopping. If your child has an allergy or is underweight or a vegetarian, that food requirement can easily fit into these standards (and likely already does).


Keeping these foods out of the house and out of the routine often improves behavior. In the book Black Belt Parenting, you can read all about scientific studies linked to the harmful effects of certain foods.


Here are the 11 best tips for your shopping list to improve your child’s performance as a martial artist:

  1. Red Belts are cool. Red dyes not so much. Avoid all foods with red dyes.

  2. Water ways. Dehydration is a major behavior changer. One parent told me her daughter cries uncontrollably when she is dehydrated. Making sure she drinks water every hour helps avoid these emotional meltdowns.

  3. Soda duh. Soda is bad in every category. The carbonation is bad. The sugar is bad. The caffeine is bad. The empty calories are bad. The liquid calories are bad.

  4. Who wants junk? From now on, call junk food what it is: junk. It’s not a special treat. It’s junk.

  5. Only option after school - easy to reach. It’s so easy to snack on what’s readily available. Prepare after school snacks that kids can reach on their own and eat unlimited amounts: fruit, raisins, applesauce, celery sticks, etc. They will have less room for junk and will at least have to ask for it. Pistachios are a favorite in my house.

  6. The Ultimate: Convenient And healthy. What is your child’s favorite healthy food? Make it available to them all the time. My child would eat a pint of blueberries every day if I had it, and often times I do. There’s no shame in eating too many blueberries.

  7. Moderation. Junk food should be in small portions. Dinner should be on child-sized plates.

  8. Kick out Kids foods. Any food with cartoon characters made strictly for kids is probably not good.

  9. Fruit, not fruit snacks, not fruit bars, not fruit juice. Again: not fruit juice.

  10. Eat close to the ground: Fruits vegetables and nuts.

  11. More Fiber = Reduces blood sugar and feeds healthy gut bacteria which help keep us all in balance in so many ways.

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