As a society, we tend to put a lot of trust in the food industry. In a way, we kind of have to. Times have changed since the days when people would shop for food by stopping at the neighborhood butcher for fresh, unmedicated meat, and then at the grocer for their non-GMO fruits and vegetables. People even had their fresh milk delivered every morning in glass bottles, and there was no such thing as pre-packaged frozen dinners. People used whole foods and made meals with simple ingredients.
But enter “convenience” foods that keep for months on the shelves and you’re dealing with a slew of preservatives, chemicals and artificial color and flavor to help them last longer. Add to that the kid-friendly sugary treats and beverages and fast food mania, and we have a whole different ballgame.
So how do all these chemicals effect our kids?
Back in the 1970s Dr. Ben Feingold was a pediatrician and allergist in Los Angeles, and he suspected a link between additives in food and children’s behaviour. He did some studies on their reactions to certain colors, sweeteners, flavors and preservatives and found that consuming these additives created hyperactivity and difficulty focusing. The result was the Feingold Diet, which called for the elimination of all these additives in order to treat children with ADHD. It had its share of criticism from other medical professionals, but it was a common treatment for years.
Then in 2007 there was a groundbreaking study in Britain that discovered the same connection. Researchers for the Southampton Project gave one group of children regular juice for two weeks and another group of children were given juice with the artificial food colourings Tartrazine E102, Sunset Yellow E110, Carmoisine E122, Ponceau 4R E124, and the preservative Sodium Benzoate E211. Parents filled in reports assessing their child’s behaviour, including things like how much they fiddled with objects, disturbed others or had difficulty going to sleep. They also took notes on their child’s concentration and frequency of temper tantrums.
The report found that the colourings and preservatives had ‘substantial effects’ on behaviour. Based on this study European lawmakers are now demanding that warning labels be put on foods that contain artificial dyes. The label tells parents that there is a risk their child might become hyperactive if they eat the product
The bottom line? You really just can’t go wrong with a healthy diet. There is overwhelming evidence out there that eating a low-sugar diet with lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, lean meats and whole grains has huge health benefits for both kids and adults.
I say there is no need to be giving kids foods with artificial additives in them; it just isn’t good for them or their developing brains. Instead of giving your kid that sugary toaster strudel with the atomic red filling in it for breakfast give him eggs, whole grain cereal or toast and fruit. This will get him off to a good start every morning and avoid that nasty sugar crash so he can feel focused and energized.
Here’s a general rule I think is good to follow: If there are a bunch of words you can’t pronounce on a food label, then you probably shouldn’t eat it. It means there is a lot of filler and not a whole lot of vitamins. There are all kinds of better options out there.
Do you have a fussy eater? If you are tired of having battles at mealtimes with your child, you can check out The Food Sense Program. It’s a system designed to encourage healthy eating habits in picky eaters.