The Kids Are Not Alright: Food Additives and Childhood Behavior

The Kids Are Not Alright: Food Additives and Childhood Behavior

April 24, 2013

By Healthy Child Healthy World staff

Walk down any supermarket aisle loaded with foods aimed at children, and you’ll see a neon rainbow of technicolored products designed to stoke young appetites. For the most part, we consider these foods harmless if nutritionally vacant. But many experts believe the artificial colors and preservatives these products contain are harming children’s health.

Scientists in the U.K., for example, found that children given juice laced with food colorings and the common preservative sodium benzoate were more likely to have trouble concentrating, controlling their tempers, getting to sleep, and restricting the impulse to interrupt others.[1] And the Center for Science in the Public Interest reports that many food colorings are linked to cancer, allergies, and hyperactivity.

Dr. Alan Greene, author of Feeding Baby Green, suggests that families avoid these five types of additives:

  • 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 Sugars –Corn Syrups, Dextrose, etc.
  • Added Salt/Sodium

Taking steps to protect our kids from unhealthy chemical additives like these is simple:

  • Check the ingredients. If you see chemicals, dyes, or other additives, make another choice.
  • Try to stick to whole foods you prepare yourself. Most of the chemicals in our food are found in processed packaged foods, and junk foods like candy, soda, and snacks.
  • Eat organic. USDA certified organic foods can’t contain artificial preservatives and colorings (though they may contain natural coloring agents like beet juice extract obtained from non-organic sources).
  • Look for products labeled “preservative-free.” But beware labels trumpeting “no added preservatives,” which can contain ingredients previously preserved with chemicals.
  • Keep a temporary food diary. Listing everything your kids eat—at home and away—will help identify trouble spots, especially in school lunches and snacks at other people’s homes.

Taking steps like these help ensure that the only colors and compounds on your family’s plate will be those that nature put there.