If my daughter had a different mom, she would probably be on drugs

Food coloring cake

Does this look appetizing to you?

No, not the illegal kind.

The FDA approved kind.

Why do I make such a bold statement?

Let me share a story…..

Monday, my husband picked my daughter up at school. She had spent the weekend with her father (my ex) and I hadn’t seen her since Friday morning.  I  went to greet her.

She sprinted across the house and literally flew into my arms, launching off the floor a few feet ahead of me and landing on my chest.

Now normally she is excited when she sees me – but this was off the charts.

Moving on…..

Husband and I decided we would go out to dinner to celebrate my upcoming television appearance, and went to a local restaurant.  We often do this, and really enjoy our time out together as a family.  Ever since my daughter was little, she was pretty easy to have at a restaurant.

Not THAT day.

My normally well-behaved daughter – was OUT OF CONTROL.

Yup, I said it.  FULLY out of control.

Bouncing in her seat, climbing over her seat, climbing onto me, shaking her legs unable to sit still, wild crazy eyes, uber-obsessed with the little circles on the glass wall separating us from the next table, humming and singing the whole time.  She had ants in her pants, and reminded me of someone on crack (and I don’t say that lightly).

This was totally out of character for her, and my husband and I kept looking at each other from across the table with dumbfounded looks on our faces.  Shaking our heads, and expressing concern with our eyes, we both were thinking “Who is this little person and where is our daughter?”

At that point, my husband commented on how when he picked her up at school that afternoon, that the teacher commented to him how DD had been ESPECIALLY excited that day – obviously not her normal self to the point where she made the comment.

Needless to say, we did not stay at the restaurant long.  I found myself getting frustrated – she would not listen, she wouldn’t be quiet, she wouldn’t sit still.  I literally didn’t know how to parent her at that moment – this was such a deviation from our norm that I was paralyzed with how to handle it.  So we went home.

Once we got home, I opened my daughter’s lunch bag, and found this:


Lunch box contents

What was inside my daughter's lunch box: Neon green 4 inch lollipop, strawberry Gatorade, and pretzels


THAT’S why she was acting so crazy.  (upon further discussion, she shared with me that she had had Fruit Loops and strawberries for breakfast – so this began early in the day apparently).

Then I flashed back almost a year.

On her 6th birthday, she had been at her dad’s house in the morning, and we picked her up at noon to take her to the ballet for her birthday present.  And again, our normally contained, normal daughter was a crazy person.  Same behavior as above – couldn’t sit still, was as though she was crawling out of her skin, her eyes were wild.  She seemed just so uncomfortable.  Turns out, that morning, she had eaten Fruit Loops for breakfast, followed by about 20 gumballs.

That is the only other time in my almost 7 years as her mom that she has behaved so erratically and out of character.  Why?  Because I don’t feed her that stuff.  I feed her wholesome, tasty, organic food free of chemicals and preservatives.

I feed real food, not fake food made in a lab.  Just seems more appealing to me.

And trust me, this behavior is not a result of the sugar, but the cancer-causing chemicals in those foods that are labeled as food dyes and “artificial flavors and colors.”

The reason I know that is two fold:  I give her sugar at my home (in small doses) but it’s organic forms of sugar and treats.  No fake food here.  She doesn’t have that response with organic “junk” food.

Secondly, she’s also been tested for food sensitivities, and she is severely allergic to the red, yellow and blue.   Many children are sensitive to the additives, colorings and preservatives in processed foods – without even needing to be tested.  Just observe their behavior after eating some and see what happens.

I’m sharing this not to demonize my ex, but to share something that I have found in my practice, and with working with many parents.

And something that I wish all the good parents out there understood.  And I am still amazed at how many parents don’t know these things, or don’t seem to care – this is information that is readily available.

Artificial colorings, preservatives, and food additives cause behavioral disruptions that are often misdiagnosed as mental and psychological disorders.

I also realized that parents who don’t know this, feed their children these things regularly, and think that is only how their child behaves.  They have no IDEA it could actually be related to the foods they are giving their child.

If I did not feed her the organic foods that I do, I can pretty much guarantee that at some point, she’d be prescribed ritalin, or some other ADD/ADHD medication for sure (not that I would give it to her, but you get my point).  Her behavior when she has consumed those foods is so dramatically different, and honestly difficult to be around, that I found myself wishing I could go take a bubble bath until she came down from her “trip.”  Long-term health effects aside, the behavior alone was intolerable.

Later on it dawned on me that my day to day experience with my daughter must be drastically different than what my ex must experience with her.  I enjoy an active, engaged, bright eyed, well-behaved happy child who is an absolute pleasure to be around (90% of the time).  I can only imagine what it’s like at his home when these foods are a regular part of her diet (much to my angst and despite my pleading with him to only feed her organic as much as possible, I don’t see it happening).

I SO passionately want parents to understand this concept.  If your child regulary behaves in a distracted manner, can’t sit still or concentrate, or seems “spacey” – take a look at what you are feeding them.

Try an experiment.

Cut out all processed foods for 3 days and see what happens.

It’s my prayer that we can keep children off of unnecessary medications by becoming aware of these concepts.

Below is the conclusion of a recent research study that was conducted by the Center for Science and Public Interest:

“Because of those toxicological considerations, including carcinogenicity, hypersensitivity reactions, and behavioral effects, food dyes cannot be considered safe.  The FDA should ban food dyes, which serve no purpose other than a cosmetic effect, though quirks in the law make it difficult to do so (the law should be amended to make it no more difficult to ban food colorings than other food additives). In the meantime, companies voluntarily should replace dyes with safer, natural colorings.”

(Center for Science and Public Interest 2010- for the full report click here)

I hope that this has given you some food for thought….and perhaps something to talk about.  Peace.

So how do you handle these situations in your life?  Do you just give in?  Do you try to change it?  Please comment below. 

Here are some additional resources and articles discussing the impact of food dyes and additives on children’s behavior:









  1. Amen to all of the above and I hope many parents will try your suggestion of eliminating processed foods for a few days to see the amazing results! My daughter is severely allergic to red dye and so am I.
    Where did you manage to get testing for these additives? I’ve been to serveral allergists over the years for myself and daughter and they always have said they have no tests for food additives– only for the foods, pollen, dander, etc.
    I’ve had to figure out all of our allergies to additives on my own by process of elimination. In addition to the red dye we are also allergic to MSG and other free glutamates, sulphites, and salysilic acid. All result in severe hives and swelling. I have noted changes in my son’s behavior when he eats just about any food dye, too.
    Thanks for the article!: )
    Monta Briant, San Diego

    • Thank you for your thoughts on this! We did testing through Alcat (which involves getting a blood draw). http://www.alcat.com/

      It tests for food sensitivities and not the typical food “allergies” which involve histamine and can lead to severe immediate allergic reactions. These are typically the harder ones to diagnose, especially via elimination, because symptoms can take up to 72 hours to show up after ingesting the food. And because the immune system is compromised, it may be hard to tell any sort of symptom.

      The test is pricey, however, it sounds like you already know things that are a challenge for you guys. My thoughts are for people who don’t want to pay for the test, err on the side of eating organic, whole foods as much as possible. Though the test also tests various types of foods as well, and in our case, our daughter had some sensitivities we had no idea about. Hope this helps!

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