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Why Processed Foods Might Be the Culprit Behind Your Child’s Tantrums

October 11, 2023

There’s a quote by Anthelme Brillat-Savarin that says: “Tell me what you eat, and I will tell you what you are”. In other words, you are what you eat. This article overviews how our children’s nutrition can affect their overall functioning. 

Why Processed Foods Might Be the Culprit Behind Your Child's Tantrums

Do you ever feel that your child’s tantrums are tipping over the edge? If you answered “Yes” to this question, you are not alone. 

Many parents of children on the spectrum commonly complain about temper tantrums. These tantrums might have you afraid to take your child out of the house because you never know when one might occur. You may be wondering about the reason behind these tantrums and struggling to find an answer. 

Did you know, the processed foods you are feeding your child could be at the root of these tantrums? Processed foods may be the culprit you’ve overlooked.  

This article will share three reasons why processed foods should be considered when managing temper tantrums in your autistic child.

 1. Processed foods contain excess sugar 

Processed foods are known to include excess sugar. This sugar can have a negative impact on your child’s behavior. When children have tantrums, it could therefore be a result of their blood insulin levels being unstable. Unbalanced insulin levels, however, are not the only problem with having your child on a high sugar diet.  

Sugar can weaken your child’s immune system, making it difficult for him/her to fight infection and making him/her more susceptible to different illnesses. It can also be the cause of hyperactivity and low concentration for your child on the autism spectrum. A study published in 2018, The Hidden Dangers of Fast and Processed Food, found there may be a link between processed food and the destruction of brain cells, lowering intelligence. This is a great reason to start investigating the number of processed foods you are feeding your child with autism.

2. Processed foods contain artificial coloring

Artificial coloring is another ingredient that processed foods contain. These synthetic ingredients can be detrimental to your child’s health and the root of tantrums. Food dyes are found in so many foods. Red No. 40 is one of the most commonly used artificial colorings, but it is not the only one linked to children’s behavioral issues.  

Dr. Benjamin Feingold was one of the first doctors to link food coloring to many kids’ behavior issues. His diet recommends the elimination of artificial colors and other additives found in food. Removing processed foods will result in the removal of artificial coloring, which could be contributing to your child’s tantrums.  

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3. Processed foods contain MSG

MSG also is known as Monosodium glutamate. MSG is a flavor enhancer found in processed foods such as fast food, snack foods, seasonings, and frozen meals. MSG can harm your child’s health and be the root of tantrums. MSG acts as an excitotoxin that can damage neurons, which in return can affect your child’s ability to regulate. When your child is consuming processed foods containing MSG, he/she can experience a reaction from this that causes many negative behaviors such as tantrums, hyperactivity, and lack of focus.

Mitigating tantrums 

So, what can you do to help minimize your child’s tantrums?

  • Read your food labels and stay away from foods with ingredients listed that you don’t understand
  • Watch your child for clues to see what foods he/she might be reacting negatively to by keeping a journal to track behaviors
  • Shift to a more nutrient-rich, whole-food diet and minimize the number of processed foods your child is consuming

It is essential to understand that aiming for minimally processed foods is the best way to go. An excellent example of a minimally processed food might be fresh/frozen fruit, fresh/frozen vegetables, and nut butter without added ingredients. These foods are minimally processed with little to no c. Starting to review your child’s diet for excess processed foods and understanding the root of your child’s tantrums is the first step towards helping him/her gain a better quality of life. 

If you would like to learn more and receive some recipe ideas, download my free e-book: Nutrient-Rich Recipes for your Autistic Child.

This article was featured in Issue 120 – Epilepsy: High Risk for ASD Kids

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