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If you limit the amount of sugar your kids eat in an effort to keep them calm(er), consider keeping an eye on the food additives they consume. Chemical additives in food and drinks have been linked to temper tantrums and other bad behavior.
Scientists in the United Kingdom found three-year-old children were more likely to have concentration issues, interrupt others, lose their temper, and have problems falling asleep when they drank juice containing food colorings and preservatives. The UK Food Commission’s response to the study? To support a ban on food additives and artificial colorings in children’s food and drink.
On our side of the pond, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has unfortunately taken very limited action on food additives, including dyes, such as Red 40 and Yellow 5, which are suspected to trigger hyperactivity in children. Due to the lack of government regulation on these chemicals that may cause children’s behavior problems, it’s up to parents to be on the lookout for any risky food additives.
Thankfully, the pediatrician Dr. Alan Greene, a Healthy Child Healthy World advisor, developed a list of five additives to avoid:
- Artificial Colors – anything that begins with FD&C (e.g. FD&C Blue #1)
- Chemical Preservatives – Butylated Hydroxyanisole (BHA), Sodium Nitrate, Sodium Benzoate
- Artificial Sweeteners – Aspartame, Acesulfame-K, Saccharin
- Added Sugar – High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS), Corn Syrup, Dextrose, etc.
- Added Salt – Look at the sodium content and choose foods with the lowest amounts.
Here are some additional tips to help minimize food additive intake:
Identify what your child eats.
Keep a food diary for a week, noting everything that is eaten – including at school. At the end of the week you should have a good idea of your child’s exposure to food additives. Food additives are largely present in processed and packaged foods, candy, soda and other “junk” food. Limit those foods and you’ll cut down considerably.
Opt for whole and organic foods.
Eating a balanced diet of fresh produce and whole grain foods will go a long way towards keeping additives out of your child’s system. Organic packaged foods have little or no added synthetic colors or preservatives.
Choose products that are labeled “preservative-free.”
Be wary of labels that claim “no added preservatives.” These products may still contain ingredients that were already preserved prior to inclusion in the final product. Almost all lard (used in baked goods) is treated with BHA or BHT.
Keep an eye out for the ingredients on Dr. Greene’s list above. Some can cause allergy-like symptoms. Others are suspected carcinogens.
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