Any parent who has dealt with the aftermath of a lolly-and-cordial fuelled kids’ birthday party will know that an overdose of sugar and red food colouring doesn’t exactly lead to a peaceful and calm household.
But what if your child can’t sit still, seems overly aggressive and/or has difficulty concentrating even when they haven’t had any junk food or sugar? Are lollies and cordial the only things we should worry about or could they be affected by something else they are eating?
As well as the obvious sugar and food colouring laden treats that most parents are aware of, there are some less well known foods which many (often controversially) believe have the potential to alter your child’s behaviour, sometimes drastically. These include:
Although you might think you’re doing the right thing encouraging your kids to eat their greens, some vegetables contain very high levels of salicylates which are believed to cause restlessness, agitation and attention problems in susceptible children.
If your child has a gluten intolerance or undiagnosed celiac disease, they may become tired and withdrawn after consuming foods containing gluten like pasta and bread.
Fish that isn’t entirely fresh and fish products like fish sauce can have high levels of amines, a naturally occurring chemical compound which it has been suggested can cause migraines, aggressive behaviour and depression.
#4: Soy Sauce
Monosodium glutamate (MSG) is a naturally occurring substance which is used as a chemical flavour enhancer in a wide range of different products, particularly Asian flavoured sauces. Although controversial, MSG has been linked with long term health problems and behavioural issues in children with sensitivities.
Most kids love bread, but certain preservatives, especially calcium propionate (282) have been linked to behavioural problems in children. In 2005 a couple of well-known bread manufacturers started to phase out 282 from their products but it is still present in some breads and bread products including wraps and crumpets.
Stronger flavoured cheese in particular contains large quantities of amines. As well as amines, dairy products may also cause issues in children who have an intolerance, notably hyperactivity and problems with concentration.
#7: Tomato Sauce / Ketchup
Food dyes have been increasingly associated with hyperactivity and difficulty concentrating over the years. As well as the obvious foods like lollies and cordial, look out for food colourings in cereal, muffins and sauces. Tomato sauce is also naturally high in salicylates.
Although often touted as a healthy snack for toddlers and young children, sultanas and other dried fruit contain high levels of sugar and salicylates which can potentially aggravate hyperactivity.
#9: Instant Noodles
Many kids love instant noodles but unfortunately most brands of instant noodles contain a cocktail of flavour enhancers, preservatives and MSG which could have a very negative effect on children’s behaviour.
#10: Fruit Juice
Fruit juice drinks aimed at kids can be packed full of sugar, preservatives and food colouring. Even natural 100% fruit juices may contain high levels of salicylates so it’s important to be careful if you believe your child may be sensitive.
The effects of food on behaviour vary from child to child but may include hyperactivity, aggression, anxiety and trouble sleeping. Not all children react the same way to the chemicals in food and some are more sensitive than others. If you’re concerned about your child’s behaviour or think they may have food allergies, talk to your doctor before making any drastic changes to their diet.