The Diet Modification That Changed My Son’s Behavior For The Best


The Diet Modification That Changed My Son's Behavior For The BestOnce upon a time, I had the sweetest docile little boy. One day, he woke up as the spawn of Satan and never looked back. His feet would hit the ground an emotional mess and I would find a way to blame his behavior on something because that wasn’t the way my boy normally acted. He would have outbursts, cry, and throw fits over literally nothing. These weren’t the typical two-year-old tantrums because you cut the sandwich the wrong way…his fits made no sense. I would ask him why he was so upset and all he would say is, “I don’t know.” I also noticed he physically couldn’t sit still. He would move constantly, even when sitting. I was not ready to commit to an ADHD diagnosis at five years of age, but I knew something wasn’t right. 

Being a nurse, I like to have evidence and data before I truly believe in something health-driven, so I started my own research. I had heard that diet and behavior can be linked, but I wanted proof, not a post from a Facebook mom who heard it from her sister’s husband’s second removed cousin’s neighbor. So that’s what I did. After my own independent research, I saw some similarities in Red-40 and what my son had been eating.

Red-40, also known as Allura red, is currently banned in the United Kingdom and all of Europe. Yet we allow it with no regulation in the United States. The National Institute of Health completed a few studies that showed an increase in hyperactivity and bowel disease in mice when Red-40 is consumed, so we started to cut my son’s Red-40 intake. Luckily, being on the younger side, the only big changes I had to make were his Poptarts and breakfast bars. We started small by switching to blueberry Poptarts.

Within 3-4 days, I noticed a huge change in my son’s behavior.

His outbursts became more typical for his age and he was able to sit and focus on an activity for more than 35 seconds. We aren’t overly strict with his intake outside of home. I still allow him to indulge at school and birthday parties without providing secondary options for him. This is our personal choice and we know we will have a few difficult days ahead of us. I have noticed it takes about 2-3 days to leave his system. 

I am not providing medical advice, but if this topic interests you, I’m sharing below some foods that have Red-40 in them…you may be surprised by the list!

First, take into consideration the color wheel (yes, my middle school art teacher would be proud I still remember the color wheel). It’s not just red foods you have to worry about; you’ll need to look at purples foods (red and blue) and orange foods (red and yellow). This includes most strawberry-flavored products such as Poptarts, yogurts, Jellos, fruit snacks, and cereals. If it’s red, orange, or purple, you can almost bet it contains Red-40. Some less obvious and shocking foods are ground beef, salmon, certain macaroni and cheese brands, vanilla yogurts, PICKLES (yes, pickles), taco seasonings, canned fruits, apple sauces and medications. The easiest way to determine if a food has Red-40, is to read the labels. Typically, the colors are found at the bottom of the ingredients and will either say “Red-40” or “Allura Red.”

Here are some products that we have found are dye free:

  • Annie’s Fruit Snacks (most Annie’s products are dye free)
  • Good & Gather (Target’s Brand)
  • Fruit strips
  • Pirates Booty Cheese Puffs
  • Fritos
  • Goldfish
  • Some Motts gummies (you have to read these labels closely)
  • Stonyfield Organic Yogurt
  • Black Forest Gummy Bears
  • Clif Kids Z Bars
  • NutriGrain bars
  • Simply Doritos
  • Sunchips
  • Giggles (alternatives to Skittles)

We haven’t quite crossed the bridge to informing my son of the diet modifications we’re making. With him being only five-years-old, I am afraid he may not fully understand, so we have made the diet changes ourselves. He hasn’t realized our popsicles are made with fresh strawberries instead of dye or that his pack of Sour Patch Kids only have yellow, green, and blue. I am so fortunate to have a supportive husband and grandparents who help me with this as well. This change hasn’t been difficult for us, but I have had to pay more attention to the things I purchase.

If you too have gone down this route or plan to, I would love to hear your feedback, so share it below! Fun fact: I too have cut Red-40 from my diet because it can also cause migraines.

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Kailey Ryan
Hi, my name is Kailey. I am a Registered Nurse turned high school Health Science Teacher. I am a proud wife and mom of 1. My sweet Brady (any football fans?) was born in August 2018. I am a Knoxville native and absolutely love the area. Where else can you drive to a beach, major city, or mountains in less than 6 hours? I married my husband in May 2017, we have known each other since he was 16. I love all things true crime, Disney, crafts, and Mexican food . If we aren't at work you will find us traveling or planning our next trip. We have a passion for traveling and our goal is to visit all 50 states. I do also work as a travel agent. I absolutely love planning vacations for families. I have been a travel agent since 2016. At the end of the day all we have left are memories, I make sure each and every family creates lasting memories. I'm most certainly not an expert on being a mom, but I hope to add some experiences and outlooks being a "millennial mom".


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