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How to Avoid Foods With Chemicals That Worsen Kids' Behavior

How to Avoid Foods With Chemicals That Worsen Kids' Behavior

How to Avoid Foods With Chemicals That Worsen Kids' Behavior

Spotting Chemicals in the Food you buy – it’s all about what you don’t want.

The first question people ask when they find out that our family has a chemical free diet is of course Why?”  That part is easy to explain.  We initially went chemical free for the well being of my daughter Sophie.  Her reactions to artificial ingredients are so severe that we were facing the possibility of an ADHD diagnosis.  But once I removed the chemicals from our diet her symptoms vanished, almost overnight. 

The second question, which is usually asked with more enthusiasm, is invariably “So what do you eat?”   That one isn’t as easy to answer.  When I went through this exercise for the first time I didn’t think I’d be making nearly as many changes as I did.  I thought I was pretty careful about the choices I made. I was dumbfounded to learn that nearly everything my daughter was eating, drinking, or touching had some form of synthetic chemical added to it.  Since the I’ve learned that the most common chemicals used by the food industry are easy to spot if you know what to look for.  Here are three easy rules to follow for beginning a chemical free diet. 

The first rule: ban artificial colors and artificial flavors.  I saw the greatest improvement after imposing this single rule.  Removing artificial colors and flavors is easy to achieve - you can easily recognize it on the labels.  Artificial colors are listed as “food coloring”, “added color”, or listed by its number, as in Red #40.  Artificial flavoring is generally listed as simply “artificial flavoring”.  Chances are if you suspect it has artificial colors or flavors it probably does.  That rainbow colored strawberry yogurt in your fridge?  It’s definitely got to go. 


The second rule: no preservatives.  There are several names for preservatives but their reason for being there is the same – to extend the shelf life of a product. The most common preservatives are labeled BHT, BHA, or TBHQ.  Toss those out and look for a substitution that has a reasonable expiration date, not a 25-year shelf life. 

The third and final rule: remove the artificial sweeteners.  You’ll find these under several generic names as well as brand names. They’re commonly in diet sodas, but you’ll also find them in juices, cake mixes, ice cream, yogurt, cookies, and other unexpected places. 

Remember that just because a product claims in big letters that it’s “All Natural” doesn’t mean it’s safe for your child.  Always read every label and if you don’t recognize an ingredient listed then play it safe and put it back on the shelf. 

So back to the question, “What do you eat?” The options for chemical free food are enormous, and are as simple to prepare and as delicious as the food your family has always eaten. I stock our pantry with raisins and other dried fruit, nuts and seeds, organic tortilla chips, pretzels, organic applesauce, fruit leathers, and old fashioned pop corn that we cook on the stove (how novel!).  There’s also pasta, rice, beans, oatmeal, Lara bars, and organic cereal. In the fridge there are cheeses of practically every variety, plain yogurt that we sweeten with honey, all natural lemonade, flour tortillas, hormone free meat, and drawers full of fruits and vegetables.  But don’t think that adopting a chemical free diet doesn’t mean you have to eliminate every convenience food from your life.  In my kitchen there are also boxes of organic crackers, cookies, frozen waffles - even boxed macaroni & cheese and toaster pastries that are completely chemical free.  The only things your family will be missing by cutting out the synthetic food are the additives. 

Overwhelmed?  You’re not alone.  My first trip back to the grocery store was an adventure I’ll never forget.  But don’t let that discourage you.  You decided to ban chemicals from your food for a reason – the health and well-being of your family.  Every minute of effort I’ve put into it has been incredibly worth it.  My daughter is calmer, more focused, and just more fun to be around without all those chemicals in her system.  After a few weeks this will all be second nature to you too, and you’ll feel a sense of pride in yourself for taking this leap.    

So what do you say – are you ready to do start making changes?

Susan is a mom to two young children, with a full time job and a hungry husband.  Her blog, Our Family Eats, began from a desire to help other overwhelmed families find easy and inspiring ways to get fun, wholesome meals on the table fast. She loves old school cameras, documentaries about useless information, and Bundt cakes, but she won’t tolerate chaos.  

Image Source: Sharon Drummond via Flickr/Creative Commons

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, POPSUGAR.

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