Food and Behaviour- A Must Read

Dear all,

What a weekend! Our children had the most fun weekend and my husband and I… well, we were the designated drivers- from one birthday party to the next. Todays’ mums really try to make an effort to cater to the dietary needs of their little guests. I was asked to tick off whether my kid was on a gluten free or a paleo diet. Wow, this is quite a jump from asking whether a kid was allergic to nuts a few years ago (check out my recent post on the paleo diet). Hey, where is the box that I can check to ensure that my kid gets a sugar reduced diet? It seems that sugar is intimately connected to celebrations and parties. I feel that most of the parents would be highly offended if that sweet part was taken away from the birthday party. Julia Child once said, “A party without cake is just a meeting.” I would go even further saying that nowadays a children´s party without sugar is unthinkable!

Candy in party bags, cakes made with seeral cups of refined sugar, soft drinks or juices, candy as prices, candy in pinatas….you name it and it contains sugar!! It’s common to joke about kids being on a sugar high after a party and then falling into that sugar low that all parents dread.  So all of us know –on some level–that food influences how kids behave. But how many of us realize the extent to which our children’s day-to-day actions are shaped and molded by the foods we feed them?

An interesting experiment that was done by the TV series “The Food Hospital” deals with the effects of food on behavior in children. This is the way the experiment was set up:

Children between the age of 5 to 9 attended a party. They were split into two groups:

Group One: was fed healthy options such as apple slices, carrot sticks, sandwiches, hummus, etc. and was given water to drink.

Group Two: received the usual party fair: candy, potato chips, and soda (or as they say in the UK, sweets, crisps, and fizzy pop), all containing loads of sugar, artificial coloring, and other additives.

The children’s ability to follow instruction, concentrate, and remember information was then measured as they played party games, and their actions were carefully recorded. You may be surprised by what they found. Let’s see what happened:

Here are the impressive results:

Food Behavior Table

What was also remarkable was the fact that the healthy food group did “48% better in the games overall” – that’s a huge improvement in performance.

Those who ran the study say that they don’t know what it is in the party food that affects the children. Is it the sugar? The artificial coloring? The lack of essential nutrients? Or a combination of the above?

What is clearly demonstrated in this little experiment is that children not only behave better but concentrate better, follow instructions better, and remember more when they eat healthier food.

This is exactly what’s essential for learning, at home and in school. Can the food they are being fed at home be a disadvantage for their learning abilities and their personal development? How can we penalize children for their misbehaviour and their inability to focus and learn if it was us who are to blame for their behaviour? Somehow that doesn’t sound fair to me. 

How can we set up our children for success and feeling great? 

The answer is quite simple: Feed them healthy foods, which essentially means following a whole food plant based diet (whole foods, whole grains, vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts, seeds, fruits, plant based milks, no processed or refined foods, no chemical stuff like artificial sweeteners etc).

There are three food additives that you better AVOID no matter what diet you follow:

1. Artifical coloring

More and more evidence is pointing to artificial food dyes as a major cause of ADHD in children. While this hasn’t been proven beyond a shadow of a doubt, the facts are strong enough to convince many European countries to ban blue 1 (brilliant blue), blue 2 (indigo carmine), yellow 5 (tartrazine), and yellow 6 (sunset yellow) among others. These food colors have FDA approval and are found in cereal, candy, and a variety of colorful foods popular with children.

2. Sugar

There is a shocking amount of sugar in processed foods – and some of it in places you wouldn’t suspect like yogurts and flavored milk, ketchup, bread, sausages or barbeque sauce? Your child can consume a considerable amount of sugar even before you let him or her eat candy, and high sugar levels contribute to hyperactivity.

3. Sodium benzoate

Sodium benzoate is a preservative found in carbonated beverages and fruit juices, condiments, candies and many other products. It has been implicated either separately or together with artificial colorings for causing or aggravating ADHD symptoms, and is best avoided.

Not surprisingly, nowadays everybody seems to know what Attention Deficit Disorder is. So many kids are diagnosed with it- and often treated with medication. A child is given the diagnosis of Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), also called Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) when he is considered overactive, cannot pay attention and cannot sit still, ALL VERY subjective symptoms. ADD is diagnosed four times more frequently in boys because boys mature more slowly than girls and because boys are put in classes at school with girls of the same age, so the boys, being less mature, appear to be hyperactive. Irritability anger and mental confusion may also be present so these children are then labeled as having a “Learning Disability.” However, these symptoms are virtually identical to the symptoms of hypoglycemia, low blood sugar which is caused by the up and down swings of insulin resulting from eating too much refined sugar.

Up to 90% of children who are first diagnosed with ADD receive a prescription for the drug Ritalin and the parents hope that the child will outgrow the symtoms. However, this has been found NOT to be the case. Children do NOT outgrow ADD symptoms. The list of the adverse reactions (side effects) for Ritalin is long though including nervousness, insomnia, joint pains, fever, anorexia, nausea, dizziness, palpitations, headache, dyskinesia, drowsiness, increased blood pressure and pulse, rapid heart rate, angina, cardiac arrhythmias, abdominal pain, actual psychosis. And there is a major warning in the Physician’s Desk Reference regarding drug dependency.

What can we do to help a child with ADD or ADHD?

The following steps are ways to help PREVENT ADD and ADHD and to REVERSE the factors that cause them:

1. Change the child’s diet to an all natural WHOLE FOOD PLANT BASED DIET. 

2. ELIMINATE caffeine, sugar and other sweets, processed food, MSG, aspartame (Nutrasweet) and other sugar substitutes and any foods that contain preservatives, food dyes or other chemicals.

3. ELIMINATE eating at FAST FOOD restaurants as most of these apparently use MSG and preservatives, plus the food in many restaurants often contains less nutrition, but many harmful chemicals.

4. Encourage the child to eat a lot of RAW FRUITS AND VEGETABLES because they are full of health-producing enzymes, vitamins and minerals.

5. Drink WATER, and small amounts of fresh home-made vegetable and home-made fruit juice (don’t underestimate how much fructose is in a large fruit juice or smoothie). Eliminate sodas, caffeinated beverages or milk from cows or any other animal.

6. Get proper REST. Children need a lot of rest and should go to bed early. A set daily routine is crucial for kids…and beneficial for their parents.

To well balanced and happy kids and parents. Cheers!

Ursula

You may also like