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Are Food Dyes Causing Your Toddler’s Tantrums?

Are Food Dyes Causing Your Toddler's Tantrums - Columbia SC Moms Blog

Some time around my youngest daughter’s second birthday, I noticed her behavior was becoming more and more difficult to manage. Having navigated these waters before, I chalked it up to the “terrible twos” and hoped the phase would pass quickly.

Pass quickly it did not. Rather, the fits of rage and illogical outbursts only seemed to escalate.

It all came to a head one week when our whole family had been sick. I had been very lax about my daughter’s meals, basically allowing her to eat whatever she felt like she could stomach.

It was then that I realized we were dealing with something more than just your typical temper tantrums. She began to throw screaming fits that lasted an hour or more. She was irrational and wild, not letting us come close to her. She would beg for a stuffed animal or toy and when we gave it to her, she would scream for us to take it back.

I was at my wit’s end. Honestly, I felt more inclined to call an exorcist than the doctor.

Then, I remembered an article written by a mother whose child basically went insane anytime they had food dyes in their system. I considered the junk I had let my daughter eat while she was sick. I thought about the Benadryl she had taken for her stuffy nose. I even checked the liquid antibiotic she had just finished taking. Bingo, all contained artificial coloring.

If she had a sensitivity to food dyes, it certainly made sense for her to react so strongly. She had been bombarded with them all week! I decided to cut them out of her diet right away and see if her behavior improved.

Over the days that followed, there was a significant change in her mood. Her overall temperament seemed much more balanced and agreeable. By the next week, it was as if she had transformed into a completely different person.

After several weeks without a single tantrum, my suspicions were confirmed upon attending a friend’s birthday party. She had eaten a cupcake with brightly colored frosting. Sure enough, she woke up from her nap that day pitching a world-class fit.

Cupcakes with Frosting

Birthday parties certainly present new challenges now!

As I did more research on artificial food dyes, I was stunned to find all the seemingly innocent foods in which they lurk. You’ll find them in cheeses, crackers, yogurt, cereals, sauces and dressings. Going out to eat seemed next to impossible. At the time of this writing, even Chick-Fil-A’s plain vanilla ice cream contains artificial coloring.

Even more shocking, I learned that the majority of synthetic dyes used in the United States are banned in other parts of the world after being linked to behavioral problems and other health issues.

So what’s a mom to do when artificial food coloring is just about everywhere you look?

The “simplest” answer is to make as many snacks and meals as you can from scratch. Of course, this can take loads of time and energy–something most of us are short on to begin with!

Personally, I do most of my grocery shopping at Aldi. I was thrilled to learn that they have now eliminated synthetic colors from their products, including many organic options. This takes all the guess work out of buying prepackaged snacks!

In addition to fresh fruits or veggies, these are a few of our favorite dye-free snacks:

  • Plain Greek yogurt mixed with fruit or jam (We love Polaner All Fruit Strawberry Spread – either stir it in or puree for a smoother consistency)
  • Simply Nature Fruit Strips
  • Clancy’s Original Veggie Chips or Simply Nature Sweet Potato Chips
  • Happy Farms String Cheese
  • Original Cheerios
  • Simply Nature Fruit Bar Popsicles

Have you considered eliminating food dyes from your family’s diet? If so, do you have any tips for the rest of us? We would love to hear about your experience in the comments!

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2 Responses to Are Food Dyes Causing Your Toddler’s Tantrums?

  1. Heather Hook February 24, 2016 at 10:04 pm #

    Great post! It’s so hard to avoid synthetic dyes, flavors, and preservatives. I’ve been astonished at what companies can get away with…i.e. several times I’ve been disappointed to see “natural” flavor on ORGANIC labeled products!

    • Mandi Heming February 26, 2016 at 8:11 am #

      Yes, “natural flavor” is very deceptive. It’s so frustrating that we don’t have the right to know exactly what’s in the food we eat.

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