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Good Mood Foods to Help Reduce Anxiety for Kids

Updated: Sep 10, 2023



A mother holding a sad child

With so much going on these days, it’s easier than ever to turn to fast foods or other ‘comfort foods’ that can temporarily make us feel better emotionally. But the truth is, once we come down from our simple carb sugar rush, we’re often left feeling worse than before we ate.

The reason? Those processed foods we often reach for are typically missing essential nutrients and they usually contain preservatives, artificial colors and flavors, and other unhealthy ingredients that our bodies simply weren’t designed to process.


Mood problems have been linked to many additives in processed foods. It’s true. Our food choices affect not only our physical bodies, but also our minds and our moods. Food can contribute to problems with anxiety, depression, irritability, attention, and behavior. In the world of a picky eater, these issues tend to show up often.


For many of our kids, go-to junk foods and snacks are missing vital nutrients that our brains need to produce the chemicals (neurotransmitters) that support better moods and behavior. When our diets are made up of ‘fake foods’, we often feel unnecessarily sad, angry, or nervous, and we may have difficulty focusing.


So, while we’re not setting out to take away all the fun or deprive ourselves of special treats, whatever we can do to steer toward healthier ‘good mood’ foods can only help in the long run. When it comes to reducing anxiety for our kids and ourselves, we can’t underestimate the power of food.


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A boy sitting alone in the classroom and thinking

Here are some tips along with some specific foods that can promote a healthy mood:

  • Get the right kind and right amount of fats. Omega-3 essential fatty acids support the brain’s production of mood-lifting neurotransmitters. Some great food sources include walnuts, salmon, avocado, flaxseeds, and Omega-3 fortified eggs.


  • Choose whole grains over white flour products. Whole grains help to reduce anxiety because they contain calming nutrients including magnesium, a mineral that is often deficient in the diet. Whole grains are complex carbohydrates that give us healthy energy while reducing hunger…these are both so important in reducing anxiety. Look for whole grain choices when it comes to breads, pastas, crackers, and other staple foods.


  • Eat high quality, lean protein. We need protein not only because it helps to regulate our blood sugar, but because protein contains amino acids that make up the chemicals our brains need to regulate our thoughts, feelings, and moods. Chicken, turkey and other lean meats, eggs, nuts, seeds, and beans are some excellent sources of protein.


  • Increase soluble fiber foods in the diet. Soluble fiber helps to regulate blood sugar levels as it slows the absorption of sugar into the blood. Preventing those spikes and dips in blood sugar helps to regulate our moods. Some foods that are especially high in soluble fiber are oatmeal, beans, peas, citrus fruits, strawberries, and apples.


A plate of healthy fruits and vegetables and cheese and crackers

  • Embrace those color foods! Fruits and vegetables are so important because they are loaded with antioxidants and nutrients that we know support our good health. Superfoods like blueberries, avocado, and leafy greens are not only powerhouses for our physical bodies, but they are wonderful, good mood foods as well.


  • Drink plenty of pure, clean water every day. Water is the most important nutrient and it makes up roughly about 70% of our bodies. Dehydration can affect us in many ways including our emotional stability, so getting good amounts of water is a key helper to regulate mood and curb anxiety.

When feeling stressed or anxious, try eating almonds, broccoli, brown rice, kale, or poultry (you can sneak almond butter or kale in a smoothie or colorful ‘milkshake’ for your picky eater). And try to minimize white bread, candy, cookies, and fast food when you're trying to support a healthy mood and reduce anxiety.



In addition to healthy food choices, other helpers for balancing out our moods include getting good sleep, exercising, sunshine, listening to music, deep breathing and as simple as it sounds…smiling.


A group of children running and playing on a playground

Is your child with anxiety also a picky eater? Get help from a professional eating coach in this concise handbook to help turn your picky eater into a brave taster.


Build a Better Eater book




All blog content shared through HealthSmart! Kids is for informational purposes only and not to be construed as medical advice. Always talk with your qualified health care provider for managing your health care needs.




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