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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.

AmandaS24396 AmandaS24396 5 years
Nothing is organic these days. You can go online to see why, and Doctor Oz has showed us why as well. Before it was illegal to use certain chemicals, they sprayed everything. Now it is in the ground. The roots of the trees are still soaking it all up. Like the resent find of arsenic in Apple Juice. Even the organic ones. Its because of us that we have all these chemicals in our foods even the organic ones. You can't guarantee that the farm that is now organic was always organic. New studies everyday are finding that what we did to stop bugs from eating crop years ago is still affecting the crops there now. And if any of the organic foods come from over seas chances are they sprayed even harsher chemicals on them then if you buy food locally. That is what my family is trying to do. Buy local. You can look up the company before you buy. Although with the arsenic in apple scare we have found a product that we thought was made in Canada wasn't. It was using fruit from China and Japan which is why it had high arsenic levels. You can't find much that is chemical free anymore. You just have to eat healthy. there is no need to go organic and break the bank. I am a single mother and could never afford to go organic so we just watch what we eat and bake our own treats. But to each their own and if organic is for you then power to you!
AlisonKlein AlisonKlein 5 years
You don't need to go organic. It's great if you can but not necessary. I don't buy organic. We are a single income family with two kids and I just can't justify the extra money I would be spending. An easy way to go natural is to just avoid the inner isles in the grocery store. All the major food groups are usually found along the walls of the grocery store, the inner aisles are filled with processed, packaged foods. I always do the outside of the store first (produce, bread, meat, dairy) and only go to the inner aisles if I need something specific ( baking stuff like flour, sometimes I buy treats for us). It's actually cheaper this way too. It's the boxed foods that cost so much.
SueSpecht SueSpecht 6 years
@Vicki, my goodness hon.. do a little researxh on what is sprayed on .. non-organic food.. here is a litte science project you could do.. take a sweet potatoe poke tooth picks half way up on both sides set it in a glass of water.. see if you can spout that potoatoe.. wait a month.. see what happens.. then go out and buy an organic sweet potatoe.. do the same thing.. and see what happens in a month... they spray a chemical agent on all our foods.. and that chemical agent makes it so we can not grow our own food from the ones we buy.. like taking the seeds out of your tomatoe and planting them next year they wont grow.. a few years ago if you left a potatoe too long it would grow sprouts.. meaning you could plant it and grow a potatoe.. same with onions.. they would sprout... I havent seen a potatoe sprout an onion sprout.. i tried to sprout an advacado see for three years as my mother used to do and then plant it...... after 3 years of trying and not getting a sprout .. i watched a science project a grandmother did with her grandaughter.. people when you grow natural .. collect your seeds because soon they wont even be sold.. yes more government and population control.. just try what i said vicki.. i dont remeber the spray but it is something nuk.. do some research.. you will be dumfounded by what you find Sincerely sue
SueSpecht SueSpecht 6 years
When we eat all the junk additives sugar ect.. our immune systoms start fighting our own bodies .. that is how we get the arthritis ect.. Just reading this makes me want to go back to eating the way my family did. I deal with devastating depression and I am not even close to eating properly... this article has reminded me that eating the way you are talking and the way i used to would probably help my depression also.. Thank you susan Sincerely Sue
SueSpecht SueSpecht 6 years
Hi susan so Glad to hear what you are doing for your family.. we wont go into why I do not have my family now.. although all 6 of us went to a natural path.. and we all ended up eating like you are.. .. and for a while not the cheeses milks ect.. to do a cleansing diet.. for candida.. yeast.. which most people have just flourishing through their bodies feeding off of many things.. my son also had ADHD.. every teacher kept saying he was lazy ect ect ect.. i expalined a child does not go into kindergarden deciding they were going to only gewt a grade 3 level eduacation in 9 years of school.. he did so well when we were eating properly, al though while we werent, my son had fotten into trouble and the court refused to keep him on the diet when he went to youth jail.. our family fell apart .. partly to do with loosing our son.. it only got worse.. he never ate natural again and he committed suicide.. ( i found a letter that i had written to the school and CC'd to the school board dr's counslers head government.. and in that letter i said if my son does not get the attention he needs in school... what i see for him is a life of crime .. and maybe even ending in suicide.. I had written that letter about 5 years before he committed suicide.. when we were all on the diets. his behaviour was absolutly wonderful, he thought differwent he made different choices he didnt get angry and try and hurt himself.. first time i ever seen him truly happy. One day.. I was busy with things and all of a sudden my son was stabbing a nail in his arm.. driving his remote on the roof.. a bunch of really crazy things.. my husband was out of town .. i called him telling him what was happening.. and the first question my husband asked was " what has he eaten" I at that moment realized he got a box of chocolates from the neighbour for shoveling their driveway and he sat watching tv eating them.. in my business i didnt even realize what he was doing... so my husband asked to talk to my son.. and just explained to him that whatever was going on in his mind and making him angry ect.. was from the food he ate.. my teenager started to cry... he stopped his negative behaviour, as my husband expalined .. as he gets the negative feelings and as he feels like hurting himself.. to not react to the thought.. it would go away when all the stuff was out of his systym. Also my husband had bone on bone in his knees.. the dr's wanted to put fake knees in him... not something my husband wanted to rush to do. After 9 months at the natural path.. my husband went back to the dr's to have them put the dye in his knees to see how "bad they were, saying he wanted one more test before he dicided on the knee replacements" well he knew he didnt need it because he had no more pain," the dr's were dumbfounded because the test had shown the cartelage had grown back in my husbands knees. when you say meat with no hormones.. do you buy straigh from family farmers or do you raise your own meat?
NanciFinley NanciFinley 6 years
I would LOVE to do this for both my son (who has an ASD/Aspergers) and I. However, due to a very strict budget I cannot afford to do so. I try to at least get foods that are whole grains and no fructose/corn syrup added. The high cost of going natural/organic prevent me from being able to buy these better products. Food in general has become more expensive even the "crap" foods. What is one to do in order to eat healthier on a very strict low budget? It is a catch 22. On one hand society is pushing for better nutrition(not to mention it in general is just common sense..who doesn't want to be healthy?) but at the same time the cost is high and for people who are low income, unemployed, and/or have large households to feed the expense is great. This is a great lifestyle....for those who can afford it. I know I can't afford it but again, I try to do the best with what little I can.
SheriWolf SheriWolf 6 years
Great article. We are also very weary of what we buy and feed our family. I am disgusted with the number of so called 'sugar free' products they add that horrible fake sugar alternative to. If it's sugar free than that would mean no sugar. Sodium is also ridiculous in products bought at the store. I can't understand how the FDA can allow these inadequate standards of food to continue with the extreme obesity and healthy issues that plaque our nation. It's insane. Food Shopping is always a long grueling event for me because of having to read all the labels. If it's not a chemical it's artificial sweeteners, msg or sodium. As a migraine sufferer I have to be very aware of what I eat. Many people don't realize how food can really impact your health and wellbeing. it is so refreshing to hear other moms doing what we do and knowing I am not the only one that struggle with this sometimes. It can be so frustrating to shop. Thanks again for this great post and those with supportive comments. Helps me to better understand what to look out for and know I am on the right track.
REGINARodriguezCarrido REGINARodriguezCarrido 6 years
Thank you! Great info! Will look into the Feingold diet as well. Even some kind of change if better than none at all.
LaniEdwards LaniEdwards 6 years
I find that I have or almost completely changed the foods my kids are eating. I've added juicing and organic smoothies. Great job with this article, wonderful info for those that need help with healthy life choices for the kids.
ireneholmes ireneholmes 6 years
This sounds good. But trying to get your spouse to do it is another problem.
KirstyWoodruff KirstyWoodruff 6 years
That was a big help, l plan to put it in place for myself and my 5yr old. I think it will help with his behaivour problems, and also get us both eating healthy family food. I have been planning to put a garden in and now this is going to get me up and get my garden started,plus it's a good way to have fresh vegies and save money at the supermarket. Thank you for ur artical it's helped a lot.
AmberF58272 AmberF58272 6 years
I have to really research this my daughter is three... better to start young thanks so much for this article
NicoleReynolds34415 NicoleReynolds34415 6 years
It is hard to aviod these food today because it's everywere u just have to let her children eat more vegetable and fruit. Nicole
Daoma Daoma 6 years
Vicki Ellis Moroski: So, just out of curiosity, you think it's laughable that people are concerned about putting chemicals, aka poisons, into their bodies??? To me, and most of the people that take their health seriously, "healthy, nutritious foods" are not those that contain man made chemicals to enhance shelf-life and color or flavor. Smart people that choose to educate themselves on the junk that's added to food and eliminate said junk from their diets are hardly quacks. They are the ones that will ultimately remain healthier, and suffer less chemical-induced health problems in the long-run. For instance, did you know that methyl alcohol, an ingredient in aspartame (i.e., NutraSweet and Equal) converts into formeldahyde, a deadly neurotoxin (and let's not forget used to preserve dead bodies), when ingested? Or that sucralose (i.e., Splenda) contains arsenic (used in pesticides, herbicides and insecticides which kill living organisms)? BUT the FDA has approved these wonders for use in mass-produced food, so they must be ok to consume, right? THINK AGAIN. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out most of the "healthy" food one purchases is probably not in the least bit healthy. The only thing about the "organic movement" that has gone too far is that large, multi-billion dollar companies get away with calling their food "organic" or "natural" when it is neither of the two. Bravo, Susan, for posting this, and to everyone who has adopted a chemical-free way of eating!!!
CoMMember13630953930688 CoMMember13630953930688 6 years
With all due respect, this is not necessary for the vast majority of people. If this style makes you think you are doing the right thing for your family, continue this, by all means. Your experiences are interesting, but anecdotal. I laugh at the numbers of truly uneducated people who believe that they need to buy organic. They are spending twice as much on organics and pseudo-organics than the rest of us spend on ordinary, healthy food. This 'organic' movement has gone too far. It is unnecessary under normal circumstances. Just fix healthy, nutritious foods for your family, and don't let the quacks make you feel inadequate.
MaryBird109 MaryBird109 6 years
Ive tried this. It works on adults also.
karenmckinlay karenmckinlay 6 years
omg but chemicals taste so good
aprilmcnail aprilmcnail 6 years
I adopted this lifestyle when I was trying for my 3rd child almost 7 years ago. I have PCOS and I am postive it is how I was able to become pregnant with him and very soon after, his brother (which makes 4). I find the most difficult thing about this is not having support from extended family and caregivers. I feel almost snobbish when I have to say "No, my children can not have this". Some try and some could care less. I have been met with "But it's sugar free" numerous times. It can become very exhausting in the leaste. I don't feel like I can trust anyone, sometimes not even their Dad, but he does try. Also, as a note to all the dieters out there, drinking diet soda and having artifical sugars is making it harder for you to loose weight. Your body doesn't know how to process the chemicals because there are no calories to burn and you will decrease your metabolism, which is so hard to get back, especially with age.
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