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Is Your Child Hyperactive? The Link Between Food Dyes and Behavior for Kids.

Updated: Sep 10, 2023

A young boy eating a bowl of  fruity O's cereal

Are you concerned about your child’s behavior? Are they overexcited, easily distracted or hyperactive?

Studies show that there is an important link between our kids' behaviors and food dyes. All kids, particularly those with ADHD, can show negative behaviors linked to artificial food coloring. Food dyes are found in a lot of common food products marketed to families.

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How Food Dyes Affect Behavior

Many factors can affect a child’s behavior. Diet and nutrition are important factors to consider.

Kids who have a healthy, balanced diet will be able to focus on their schoolwork and have the necessary energy to play and explore. Kids who lack essential vitamins and minerals may have trouble concentrating, regulating their energy, or managing their emotions.

Research shows that artificial food dyes can affect behavior in kids. Several studies have found a link between hyperactive behavior and the consumption of food dyes.

Our bodies weren't designed to break down fake foodstuff chemicals, so it makes sense that artificial colors aren't easily processed by young children's bodies and may cause problems for them.

A little girl with a blue lollipop sticking out her blue tongue

Which Foods Contain Artificial Colors?

Manufacturers know what they're doing when it comes to making products more appealing. Food dyes are used to make you more likely to buy and consume your favorite processed foods.

Because consumers are catching on to the relationship between food dyes and health issues, some manufacturers are cleaning up their acts. Today it's a bit easier to find your family's favorite products without artificial colors because some companies now make alternative products using only natural colors from fruits and vegetables.

Food dyes are commonly found in some favorite foods for kids including cereals, chips, oatmeal, candy, waffles, flavored drinks, yogurt, fruit snacks, macaroni and cheese, baked good, and ice cream. It's a good habit to read the ingredient lists on products that you buy and try to find alternatives to minimize the number of food dyes in your child's diet.

The Importance of a Healthy Diet for Kids with ADHD

There's no cure for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) but there are treatments that can help manage symptoms and improve your child’s quality of life.

A healthy diet is essential for children who suffer from ADHD. Eating a balanced diet rich in vitamins and minerals is vital for your child’s development and can help reduce the negative effects of ADHD.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that kids with ADHD eat a variety of healthy foods including whole grains, beans, fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, healthy fats, and fiber.

In addition to avoiding or minimizing artificial colors, flavors and other preservatives, try to limit sugar, salt and saturated fats. Be sure kids drink plenty of water and also start their day with a healthy breakfast.

A girl showing her arm muscles while standing in front of a bunch of fresh vegetables on a countertop

Natural Alternatives to Avoid Hyperactivity from Food Dyes for Children

Along with finding substitute brands for favorite products that don't contain artificial dyes, think about nature's color foods - fruits and vegetables!

If you have a picky eater (and most kids with ADHD have selective palates), try to introduce new foods gradually, yet consistently, alongside currently accepted mealtime choices.

Let kids help in the kitchen whenever possible as this increases the likelihood that they will eventually try new foods.

When making cookies or other treats at home, use natural food colorings instead of artificial food dyes. Whenever feasible, consider purchasing organic or 100% natural foods as they are free from artificial ingredients including dyes.

If you're concerned that your child may have ADHD, it's important to speak to your medical practitioner. Working to reduce artificial colors and other additives for all kids can not only help to support good health, but also healthy learning and behavior.

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All blog content shared through HealthSmart! Kids is for informational purposes only and not to be construed as medical advice. Always talk with your qualified health care provider for managing your health care needs.

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