Foods That Can Cause Bad Behavior in Kids

by Maggie McCormick

    Some children are more challenging than others, but this doesn't mean that you have to resign yourself to putting up with temper tantrums or other types of aggressive behaviors. The key to controlling your child is to determine the root cause of the problem. In some cases, the food that she's eating may be directly related to her bad behavior. Eliminate the problem foods and you eliminate the bad behavior.

    Sugar

    Foods that contain a lot of refined sugars, such as chocolate and candy, may have some link to hyperactivity in children, according to Medline Plus. Sometimes, the sugar content in the foods your child eats may not be immediately apparent. For example, certain cereals, yogurt and granola bars may seem like healthy options, but actually are loaded with sugar. Carefully read the ingredients of the foods that you give your child and if sugar in any form is one of the first few ingredients, pass over it. Instead, serve healthy snacks like fresh fruits and vegetables or whole grains.

    Junk Foods

    You may know that junk foods aren't the best option for your child, but you may not be aware of how bad they can be. A diet that's high in junk foods -- including non-nutritional "real" foods like macaroni and cheese or fast food meals -- is likely to be low in nutrients. A study reported in the "American Journal of Psychiatry" found that there is a link between malnutrition and aggressive behavior in kids. To counter this, always serve your child the most nutritious foods available. If your child is a picky eater, look for ways that you can sneak nutrition into the foods, such as pureeing vegetables into a spaghetti sauce or baking fruits and vegetables into muffins. Supplement your child's diet with a multivitamin as long as your pediatrician says this is OK.

    Food Dyes

    Food additives can also cause problems. In particular, children who have an allergy to food dyes can exhibit behavior similar to that in children who have Attention Deficit Disorder. You'd be shocked to learn how many foods contain dyes. Your pediatrician can test your child for this allergy and if your child has it, you should eliminate foods that contain dyes. Read labels carefully, as you'll find it many places. Your safest option is to make foods from scratch, using only whole ingredients.

    Gluten

    Celiac disease -- an allergy to gluten -- affects approximately 1 percent of the population. Though most of the symptoms involve physical problems, like gastrointestinal issues or hair loss, irritability or changes in behavior can also be symptoms. Gluten may be present in many of your child's favorite foods, from the bread in a sandwich to the coating on chicken nuggets. Fortunately, many grocery stores now offer a "gluten-free" section where you can buy replacement foods for these favorite items.

    About the Author

    Maggie McCormick is a freelance writer. She lived in Japan for three years teaching preschool to young children and currently lives in Honolulu with her family. She received a B.A. in women's studies from Wellesley College.

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