Our Director of Nutrition talks about guiding franchisees and clients through the nutrition aspect of our program
Most people these days understand that if you eat better, you feel better. Many people understand how important it is to eat fewer processed foods. But science is increasingly uncovering the connection between the brain and the gut, and the important role nutrition plays in how we feel and function. This is especially true for the kids that Brain Balance helps.
Holly Larson, a registered dietitian who is the Director of Nutrition for Brain Balance, has helped guide franchisees through our proprietary Balance 360 nutrition program for the past four years. Nutrition is an important part of our integrative, drug-free approach to helping children overcome developmental challenges, and each student participates in our proprietary nutrition program. While the nutrition program is designed to be self-guided, each family gets individual support and guidance on how to best implement the program for themselves. While franchisees don’t have to be nutritional experts themselves, they will be trained on the basic framework and how programs are customized in a way that will work best for individuals and their families.
“Balance 360 is designed to mostly be a self-guided program, and the Brain Balance nutrition team (the nutrition support team) all work through the home office,” Larson says. “It is essentially a clean eating program. We’re asking our families to cut out the stuff that seems to be so common in our food system these days — things like dyes and preservatives that might negatively impact a child’s behavior, including cutting back on added sugar.
“We’re also working to cultivate good gut health because of the gut-brain connection.”
The gut-brain connection
While it is widely accepted that people with Crohn’s disease, celiac disease, ulcerative colitis and IBS often experience leaky gut syndrome, the idea that kids with ADHD and other neuro-developmental disorders may also be affected is gaining traction.
Larson says Brain Balance asks families to go gluten-free and dairy-free, along with a few other changes, to help optimize the child’s brain and gut. “We do that so that they are feeling their best and can have their best experience when they’re in Centers doing the program,” she says.
While the links between diet and behavior are still being investigated, gluten and dairy are common triggers for children with ADHD and other cognitive challenges. Other changes, like eliminating dyes or only eating meats that are certified antibiotic-free, have also led to success stories. And even though research is ongoing, families who make these changes will be improving everyone’s overall health.
How franchisees get involved
Once franchisees are on board, Larson and her staff meet with them individually and familiarize them with the nutrition aspect of the Brain Balance approach.
“I also have an ambassador program that Center staff can volunteer to participate in, where we spend six weeks together training and practicing nutrition,” Larson says, “so that they feel really comfortable and confident talking to families about our program, and doing so in a way that’s appropriate.”
Larson says one of the most common questions franchisees ask is why — why does Brain Balance recommend the nutritional guidelines that we recommend?
“Processed foods have become so normalized that we don’t realize that it’s only recently that we’ve been eating this way. Recent as in the last 20, 30 and 50 years,” she says. “So we provide lots of tips and other healthy eating information through avenues like webinars for parents so we can talk through the science. And those webinars are for staff, too.”
Franchisees will learn about all the tools Brain Balance provides to families who may be feeling overwhelmed when they first join the program. For instance, in addition to webinars and recipe-sharing, we have a private Facebook community of about 10,000 families where people can share concerns, nutrition tips and success stories.
And while our nutrition program is meant to be for our clients, Larson has seen many franchisees become clean eating converts, too.
“Each year our company has an annual convention, so it’s really nice to be able to recharge and connect with those franchisees in person,” Larson says. “And I just love it when they tell me things like, ‘I feel better. I don’t have migraines anymore. We don’t have pain because of changes to the way I’m eating, and I just feel better.’”
Brain Balance franchises are changing the lives of children with developmental, behavioral and cognitive issues with a unique, drug-free, personalized approach. If you’re interested in owning a franchise whose mission is to help children live their best lives, you can explore our website or fill out a form for more information.