Last week, my helper gave each child a packet of fruit snacks, a cup full of Goldfish crackers, and water. Within 10 minutes, all four boys transformed from quiet and polite to hyper and out of control. They ran, wiggled, screamed, hit, wrestled – the transformation was so sudden and so extreme I could hardly believe my eyes or ears. As I watched my own son suddenly turn into a terror, I looked into his eyes – and something was strange. I could tell something was causing this crazed behavior that he simply couldn’t control.Then I thought about the fruit snacks.Filled with corn syrup and several artificial food colors, I knew there had to be a connection between feeding a relatively small child the six or seven snacks and the out of control behavior. (After all, artificial food colors are known to cause aggression, hyperactivity, temper tantrums, kicking, uncontrollable kicking and screaming, nervousness, dizziness, and headaches.)
I asked my helper if I could bring in snacks the next time we met, and she happily agreed once I shared with her my idea for an experiment. Choosing the typical snacks I feed Big Brother and Little Sister at home, I came prepared with organic apple slices, raisins, and plain old Cheerios (the kind without artificial sugary flavoring).
The big test
This week, only one boy begged for Goldfish crackers, and one girl said she didn’t like apples. The rest of the children gobbled their Red Delicious and Granny Smith apples, raisins, and Cheerios. It made me smile to hear “More raisins and Cheerios, please!” – especially because I knew I could give them more without being concerned about their health. (They also had a great time turning making tiny raisin sandwiches in buns made of Cheerios … which was their own inventive idea.) After everyone enjoyed seconds and thirds of their snacks, even Goldfish Boy and Anti-Apple Girl asked for apples.
Once snack time was over, I watched the clock and observed their behavior. Nothing happened. In about a half an hour, everyone started to get a little squirrelly because we had been in the same room for so long. But there was not a bit of extreme aggression the entire day.
My suspicions had been correct – food does play a huge role in a child’s behavior. Especially processed junk food.
While I don’t know exactly what specific ingredients triggered the aggression and hyperactivity in the boys, I’m certain something affected them. After trying similar culinary experiments on my own children throughout the years, it was refreshing to see the same behaviors – both wild and mild – with other children, too.
I ran across a thought-provoking blog post on Stacy Makes Cents this week; Stacy details her whole foods journey and concludes that everything is bad for you, yet food is not our Savior. I couldn’t agree more.
Because foods – and many products – can be so bad for you, it’s easy to get caught up in a quest to live a healthier life. And to a large extent, it is important to make healthy choices. If not, we’re just being poor stewards of what God’s blessed us with. (For example, giving our children healthy snacks vs. junk food that literally makes them bounce off the floors and walls.) But the food and healthy choices won’t give us immunity from all the horrid things in life. Bad things happen. Of course it’s wisest to make healthy decisions, but trust in God alone – not your choices.
When have you noticed your behavior – or a child’s behavior – change depending on a food or beverage choice?
Today, I’m linking up with:
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