When I first became a dietitian I was dubious about the effect of preservatives and additives on children’s behaviour. I was also in disbelief about the effects of sugar. I, being a know-it-all uni student, thought that it was an excuse that parents made for their crazy kids. As with many things in life, the universe has decided to punish my insensitive thinking by teaching me the practical way. In this case, sending me a child who goes bat-shit-crazy with sugar, additives and preservatives.
I know there are mums out there who have it much worse, and have children with behavioural issues that are much more severe than my emotionally wired little gal, but I tell you what, you can really tell the difference in my girl when she is eating non-processed foods as opposed to when she is not. When we have let processed foods (key ones that I will talk about in a sec) she is more emotional, more angry and less kind to us and her sister. It’s that kind of behaviour where you can tell she is really really trying to be a good girl but literally just cannot help herself. Emotional outbursts because she said she wanted a shaky pony tail and her pony tail wasn’t shaky enough. Hitting me because I tell her that we are having spaghetti for dinner (which is her favourite). And yelling at her hands because they are not doing what she wants them to. You know, that sort of behaviour. And yes I know that that is just normal pre-schooler behaviour but we have seen it lessen so much more when she is not eating certain preservatives, and obviously when she is well slept too!
So I just thought I would share some key foods that we try to avoid, most of the time.
-bread with preservatives in them. Because some days Miss 3.75 may have toast for breakfast (plus another if she is hungry that day), then a sandwich for lunch and some other bready product later on that day, the preservative load can get quite high if we aren’t choosing preservative free bread. Luckily it is quite easy to come by at Brumby’s, Bakers Delight and also Coles and Woolies bakery.
-chicken stock. I don’t know why this has so much more of an impact but chicken stock seems to bring out the aggro in our little Miss 3.75. So most of the time, I make my own. Makes for a much calmer household.
-vegemite. Luckily enough, Miss 3.75 prefers peanut butter to vegemite and I have been able to find peanut butter varieties without preservatives.
-processed snacks. Rice wheels, flavoured savoury biscuits, anything in a little packet unfortunately brings on the bads. I try most of the time to do things like puffed corn, sultanas, fresh fruit, and things I’ve made from home. Some snacks containing preservatives that often creep in (and tend to not make a huge difference as long as everything else is on track) are cheerios, fruity bites and pretzels.
-premade sauces, foods and pastes. These happen in our house when stuff gets busy. If I’m time poor, if work is busy, if we have lots of family things on, if I’m tired and lazy. It happens. But most of the time it builds up and we pay for it!
In general we don’t really have things like lollies, and chips so I’m sure they would be things I would consciously avoid if we did have them.
These are the only areas we are “strict” on, and even by strict I don’t really mean strict. It’s what we aim for. If it happens, great. We see results, she is much more calm. If we don’t, she gets edgy and we are reminded to get back on track.
So if you have been thinking about reducing or eliminating preservatives and additives, these are the ones that we have tried and get good results with. A GREAT place to start is by visiting Food Intolerance Network website because it is a wealth of information with a whole heap of useful fact sheets and instructions.
The Dietitian Mummy