Who doesn’t love sweets? Here’s what artificial flavoring in food can do to your child’s mood and behavior.
Clinical Psychologist Dr. Nicole Beurkens (www.drbeurkens.com) knows a thing or two about the pitfalls of artificial flavoring. In her book Life Will Get Better: Simple Solutions for Parents of Children with Attention, Anxiety, Mood and Behavior Challenges, she reports how artificial additives are linked to everything from hyperactivity, headaches, restlessness and anxiety when it comes to sensitive kids.
If you’re not ready to jump on the medication bandwagon (and who can blame you?) why not see if you can improve your child’s mental and physical well-being simply by removing chemicals from their diet? Here’s how!
Know the Difference Between Natural Flavor & Artificial Flavoring
Natural flavor, put simply, is what comes from nature itself. Ex: Tomato flavoring does not have sodium benzoate mixed with Red #3 and Yellow #5. It simply contains “tomatoes.” Equally, “fruit flavor” comes from actual fruit, not saccharin, sugar or high fructose corn syrup. Bottom line: With true natural flavor, there are no synthetics whatsoever creating taste or smell.
Artificial flavoring is exactly the opposite of natural flavoring in that the taste is created in a lab via a chemical process. While this might make the food look brighter and more appealing, it has been proven to create havoc on a child’s nervous system which is, well, far from appealing. In fact, it’s so un appealing that many of the ingredients are banned outside the U.S..
Check Food Labels: Just because a manufacturer slaps the label “Natural” on a package does not make it so. Artificial flavoring can cause a host of issues in the brain:
- Amyl Acetate: Banana and pear oil. While giving a tropical flavor to dressings and chips, this sneaky flavoring can also trigger headaches, depression, anxiety and stomach problems.
- Caramel: Both a coloring and sweetness enhancer, this can cause deficiencies in Vitamin B6 and has been linked with cancer and genetic defects in adults.
- Vanillan: Not to be mistaken for pure vanilla, this petroleum based flavor agent comes from paper mills and can cause headaches, nausea, breathing problems and kidney issues.
How to Eliminate Food Flavoring (Without Causing Your Kid to Freak Out): Let’s face it: If little Johnny is used to his daily Doritos snack, replacing it with grapes and organic cheese might not go over so smoothly. But exchanging like for like can often work out very well. Most health food stores have equivalents for name brand items that taste just as good, if not better, then the fake flavored favorites. (TIP: Garden of Eatin’ is an organic line of snacks with some amazing options.)
Cost (Yup, Eating Natural Can Be More Expensive, But…): While fresh snack options are indeed more expensive, there are plenty of ways to cheat. For example, Garden of Eatin’ chips are easily three times more expensive than Doritos, but there’s a good chance little Johnny was eating too many fatty chips in the first place. Consider cutting down on portions and adding in air popcorn without artificial flavorings. Drizzle olive oil and garlic salt to fill out his lunch. In fact, that version of popcorn is so good, and inexpensive, you can send him with a few extra bags to share with his friend, leading us to the next point.
Get Other Kids Involved in the Food Change: It’s hard enough being the kid who has meltdowns every lunch period. Being the only kid at school eating “boring and healthy” can potentially make kids feel even more isolated. Instead of being the outsider, send your child with some extra food to let his friends try. (Note: Be sure there are no known food allergies amongst his or her friends.)
Other Ways to Make the Food Change Fun: Kids are more likely to embrace change if they are a part of it. Give them ten dollars at the market and let them pick out a few healthy snacks to try. Let them cook with you or get a book at the library. Check out some cooking shows or movies about health. Even finding a celebrity that eats healthy can make all the difference in having your child embrace natural food.
You Can Do This! Artificial flavoring is potentially dangerous to your child’s health. We know changing up a diet can be daunting, but we promise that the results will be worth it! Try to avoid artificial flavoring and sweeteners!
Have you found strategies that worked for your family to reduce these artificial flavorings in candy and foods? Share them in the comments below!
For more on chemicals in your children’s diet from Dr. Beurkens, check out these posts:
Artificial Food Coloring and Child Behavior
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