Kids love the bright colors in foods such as gelatin, fruit snacks, frozen treats, fruity drinks, and cereals. But with ingredients including artificial sweeteners, flavors, and food coloring found in certain foods marketed to kids, some parents are uncomfortable with these laboratory-produced ingredients. Although the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) maintains that the consumption of these ingredients pose no risks, some physicians and consumer groups disagree.
The UK conducted a study in 2007 to correlate behavioral changes with food dyes. They found that children who drank a beverage containing food dyes exhibited more hyperactive behavior than kids who drank a placebo. For this reason, the United Kingdom Food Standards Agency, which is essentially the British counterpart to the FDA, recommends that children with ADHD eliminate food additives from their diets. Moreover, British companies were encouraged to remove artificial coloring and dyes from all food products.
Research on the west side of the pond has been mixed. Some studies have been inconclusive, while others have disproved certain theories. The FDA, meanwhile, maintains that proper use of food additives is safe for people of all ages and no such recommendations have been made for American children. This hasn’t stopped some parents from trying elimination diets that remove artificial food additives from their children’s meals and snacks. In many cases, parents of children with ADHD report that elimination of food additives has improved their children’s behavior. More testing is needed as the improvements could be the result of a change in the family dynamic that happens during a family-wide dietary change.
While the whole truth regarding artificial additives may be elusive at this time, it doesn’t mean parents remain helpless. The good news is that there are alternatives to many of the additive-laden foods and drinks if a parent is willing to forgo convenience foods and cook from scratch. This sounds expensive and time consuming, but some recipes are actually more budget-friendly and quicker to prepare than the commercially available foods. A quick internet search can yield a slew of childhood treats made from real ingredients, like homemade fruit snacks or jellies.
Want to try some additive-free recipes? Here are two that are quick, easy, and inexpensive to prepare. Chances are your child won’t even miss the kind sold in stores!