Lifestyle

Artificial Food Dyes and Toddler Aggression

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I love being a mom to my 2-year old son. The name of this blog is the Food Tracking Momma and although I mostly write about counting and logging calories to lose weight, I don’t want to lose the “momma” aspect of this blog. So today I wanted to share my family’s struggles with finding the source of my son’s dramatic mood swings and early signs of ADHD. After months of trials, my husband and I found that artificial food dyes were the source of his behaviors.

Food Tracking Momma Extreme Toddler Aggression and Mood Swings with Artificial Food Dyes

For more information on counting and logging calories to lose weight (food tracking) or for recipes from the Food Tracking Momma, please CLICK HERE to subscribe to this blog and let me help you live life more healthy and abundantly (John 10:10). You will receive the FREE eBook LOSING WEIGHT WITH FOOD TRACKING.

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Also like my Facebook page and Follow Me on Pinterest. For more support on calorie counting and food tracking, join my Facebook group, Losing Weight with Food Tracking.

Background

We adopted our son when he was 15-days old. This was an open, family adoption so we knew the history of his birth parents very well. Both of his birth parents struggled with severe ADHD. Subsequently, we committed to provide our son with a calm, stable home. My husband and I aren’t perfect (far from it), but we are older parents who are committed to loving our son as much as possible. We believe in the mantra, “A calm home produces calm children.”

Observed Behaviors

We started seeing problems around his second birthday. He was so moody! At first, we attributed his mood swings to the “terrible twos” and just kept on going. Then around 2 ½ he began manifesting extreme behavior swings. He was often such a gentle, go-lucky kid. But for no apparent reason he would become an angry, aggressive toddler who was unable to sit still.

We mostly recognized the behavior swings when he would take a nap. We never knew which personality would wake up. In fact, we started to jokingly call the aggressive personality, “Mr. Hyde.”

The number one symptom was aggression. For instance, he would hit and bite and would just be mean. The other main symptom is what we called, “Ants in his pants.” He couldn’t sit still. He couldn’t focus on anything. In the early stages we joked that he would “lose his mind.” But near the height of these problems, the appearance of “Mr. Hyde” was far from funny.

Food Sensitivity

Because of the dramatic mood swings, we began to consider an environmental source of the problem. He would have eaten breakfast and lunch before his nap, so we started to suspect that some type of food sensitivity was the cause. We were able to narrow this down because he almost never presented with aggression after waking in the morning.

To begin with, we removed sugar from his diet. It seemed logical that a ‘sugar high’ or a sensitivity to sugar could cause these behaviors. We saw some improvement and so we told family, church, and sitters to not give him anything with sugar. But there were still inconsistencies. First, he would still occasionally present with the symptoms. Second, he never reacted to any natural sugars (like those found in fruits). And third, his Grandma would give him homemade cookies and he didn’t have a reaction.

We decided to let him participate in the Halloween Trunk or Treat at our church, with the thought that we would only give one candy a day from his stash. I am a lover of chocolate, so I tended to give him the candy that I liked (chocolate, miniature candy bars) and he didn’t react. This continued for several days after the Trunk or Treat.

Artificial Food Dyes

Everything changed the night we gave him a Jolly Rancher candy from his Halloween stash. He had been great all day and we decided it would be fun to sit down and watch a movie as a family. That night I gave him a single, blue Jolly Rancher’s hard candy. We were sitting together when we saw the change in him. He literally transformed right in front of us. He began to hit the dog, hit us, and hit his head on the carpet. This was not in reaction to anything or having a fit. He just started to be aggressive. He then started to have to move around and climbed on top of an end table and then on top of the couch. He became defiant and extremely aggressive. And he couldn’t stop moving.

We were in shock, but we knew immediately he was reacting to that piece of candy. The candy had the following artificial food colors: Red 40, Blue 1, Yellow 5, and Yellow 6. From that moment on, we removed all artificial food dyes from his diet.

Life Without Food Dyes

The result of removing the dyes is dramatic. It has been four months and he no longer exhibits aggressive, ADHD-like behaviors. We have stabilized his moods and things are much better.

Our little guy is still a toddler. He is still easily prone to a fit and will get mad just as quick as any other toddler. The toddler temper and fits don’t bother us too much- this too shall pass. But we are thankful that his aggression and ADHD-type behaviors are gone.

Since removing the food dyes, he’s only had three episodes of the Mr. Hyde behaviors, each time when we’ve messed up and accidently given him an artificial color (our little guy even reacted to caramel color). But life is so much better knowing that our little guy is navigating toddlerhood in a much healthier way.

Learning to Remove Artificial Food Dyes

It has not been that difficult to remove food dyes from our diet. It just takes a little bit of time and effort. Some dyes are very easy to spot. If a processed food has color, we generally don’t eat it. When I buy a new food item, I always inspect the ingredients to see if there are any artificial colors listed. They are easy to spot because they are usually one of the last ingredients, and they have a number listed after the color. We’ve found them in surprising food items, like ketchup, cream cheese frosting and snack crackers.

Eating out at restaurants is a little trickier. If you suspect the restaurant is using processed foods (and most do), then you must ask before ordering.

Medical Guidance

When we were in the height of these behaviors, we did consult with his pediatrician. His pediatrician has over 20 years’ experience in a busy practice. Yet he never helped us discover the problem. He only stated that it was good we were limiting sugar, because kids shouldn’t have much sugar anyway.

Conclusion

To any parent who is struggling with toddler behaviors that are too extreme to be overlooked, I would recommend you remove all artificial food dyes. The change in my son has been so dramatic, that I want to help spread the word that artificial food dyes are impacting children’s behaviors. Take some time to search the Internet for “Red 40 ADHD”. Educate yourself.

The good news is, consumers are driving the food industry to remove artificial colors from products. But because the FDA continues to approve the artificial food dyes, it’s up to individual companies to remove it themselves. Kraft has removed artificial food dyes from its macaroni and cheese, and Dunkin Donuts/Baskin Robbins has removed artificial dyes (effective at the end of 2018). I expect more companies will follow this trend as consumer refuse to buy products that contain artificial food dyes.

You are the expert when it comes to your child. You know what is normal (for them) and what is abnormal. Be your child’s advocate. Be willing to remove environmental causes if you suspect it. And never give up! As we stumbled upon the source of my toddler’s mood swings, so I pray you will also.

Thanks, Andrea
The Food Tracking Momma

Related articles:
17 Healthy Habits to Successfully Lose Weight
10 Ways for Maintaining Weight Loss
How I Lost 70 Pounds by Counting Calories

Photo by Jordan Whitt on Unsplash

Lifestyle

Using Online Grocery Services for Weight Loss

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Online Grocery shopping is a convenient and modern way to shop for groceries. I use Walmart Grocery and I will write this article from my experience with their service. The price for items is identical to those inside the store, the service is free for orders over $30, and the app is friendly and easy to use. For those who are committed to a low-calorie lifestyle, online groceries offer ways to help you resist impulsive buying decisions of high-calorie junk foods and you may even save money! Remember, low-calorie meals plus food tracking results in weight loss.

food tracking momma online grocery to lose weight

A few weeks ago, I made a rare trip into my local grocery store. I just needed a couple of items and my goal was to run in and run out with just those few necessities. As I approached the end cap of an aisle, I spotted the new Cinnamon Bun Oreos which were strategically placed so I would have to pass by them. Oh… Oreos. And in a moment of lost impulse control, they were placed in my basket for me to consume later.

Grocery stores are counting on all of us to make impulsive purchases. It’s big business and it not only impacts our wallet, but it impacts our weight loss and weight control strategies. As the Food Tracking Momma, I am here to help you lose weight by counting calories and logging them in a food diary. One way to lose weight is to limit the junk and high-calorie foods that you purchase.

I have been using Walmart’s Online Grocery and pickup for six months now. You will find many positives to online groceries, but the one I want to emphasize most in this article is your ability to limit impulse buying of processed/high-calorie foods.

For more information on counting and logging calories to lose weight (food tracking) or for recipes from the Food Tracking Momma, please CLICK HERE to subscribe to this blog and let me help you live life more healthy and abundantly (John 10:10). You will receive the FREE eBook LOSING WEIGHT WITH FOOD TRACKING.

free eBook Losing Weight with Food Tracking

Also like my Facebook page and Follow Me on Pinterest. For more support on calorie counting and food tracking, join my Facebook group, Losing Weight with Food Tracking.

Impulse Buying Equals More Calories

According to a CNBC report, consumers pay an additional $5400 a year on impulse purchases. In the survey, 70.5 percent of respondents identify food as their biggest impulse purchase. That is a lot of money a year. But how many additional calories does this represent? That is the problem for all of us living a food tracking lifestyle. Impulse purchases equal extra (and unnecessary) calories.

The physical layout of a grocery store is designed for impulse buying! One way to combat this is to go in with a grocery list and have a ton of willpower so that you do not deviate at all from that list. Oh, and leave your husband and toddler at home because you can guarantee there will be many extra items if you bring them along.

When you walk in the store, you smell the bread and cookies. You see the enticing products strategically placed on the end caps of the aisles (Oreo cookies anyone?) The meat and dairy are placed in the back to force you to walk through the store to obtain those essential items. Even the music played in the background has been researched to influence you to buy more items! For more information into the science of grocery shopping, please reference this link.

Positive Aspects to Online Grocery Services

There are many positive aspects to using an online grocery service. Let me summarize my favorites:

Little to no impulse buying
I summarized above the tactics grocery stores employ to entice you to make impulsive purchases. By never entering the store, you completely remove most of the marketing tactics that influence you to make an unplanned purchase. At the time of writing this article, the Walmart app does offer product suggestions when you are ready to close out your order, but they are based on previous purchases, not random advertisements of junk food.

Convenience
It is convenient to input a grocery list into the easy to use Walmart Grocery app, pay electronically, and then about six hours later go pick up the bagged and completed groceries. If it’s raining you don’t have to get wet. You don’t have to take grumpy children into the store. If you are limited on time, you only expend the time it takes to input your items into the app and then drive to the pickup area. It is a modern way to grocery shop and it is an epitome of convenience.

Adding needed items as you go
As I type this article, I know that I just ran out of eggs and brown sugar. In the past, I would keep a separate list to track the kitchen items I need. Now all I do is open my online grocery app and quickly add the items as they run out. This way I don’t worry about keeping multiple lists, and I don’t have to worry about forgetting to add any essential items. The Walmart app allows you to track your needed grocery items throughout the week.

Toddlers!
I love my little guy. He brings joy to my life. And he is just shy of three years old and is asserting his new found will, usually in the form of a screaming fit. God bless him! So, the thought of taking him into the grocery store makes me a little queasy right now. Don’t worry, we are working on this and he is improving, but to make life simpler on this stay-at-home mom, I love that I can complete my grocery shopping without ever taking the little guy into the store. Thank you online grocery! Your other customers who don’t have to observe a toddler fit thank you also.

Limiting impulsive purchases
If you don’t go into the store, you don’t smell the bakery goods (donuts!) and you aren’t tempted with the newest junk foods. Using Walmart Grocery reduces impulsive purchases that costs money and adds unnecessary calories.

Meal Planning
Meal planning is having a menu (low calorie and healthy, of course) for however many days you are buying for and creating a grocery list based on that menu. I encourage you to meal plan before you grocery shop. This way you can plan out your low-calorie meals and shop only for the ingredients needed for your menus. Once you have your meal plan completed, then simply open your grocery app and quickly input the ingredients. This is convenient and supports a low-calorie lifestyle. Do you need some low-calorie meal options? I recommend Instant Pot Chili con Carne and Slow Cooker Tangy Beef Stew. Yes, you can eat beef as part of a low-calorie lifestyle.

Negatives to online grocery services

So, I’ve mentioned the positives, are there any negatives? I can only assess Walmart Online Grocery but for me, the negatives are far less than the positives. First, there is a $30 minimum purchase. I completely understand this restriction. It would drive them nuts to have to shop every time someone needed a cup of sugar. Another problem I’ve experienced is that their app lists an item in inventory, but it runs out before the associate can shop for it. You can help negate this problem by allowing substitutions, but even then, sometimes they just don’t have an item that you’ve purchased (you will be refunded the cost of the item but now you must run to another store if the item is essential). This is an error between their app and their live inventory software. Hopefully in the future they will include a warning that the item is low in stock, so you can choose something else. The final negative is, you are allowing someone else to make subjective choices for you. If you are a control freak, this may not work for you. For me, I’ve been satisfied, and I think they put much time and effort into making great choices.

Online grocery services have many positive aspects. As the Food Tracking Momma, I am most grateful for the ability to reduce impulsive purchases of high-calorie junk foods. By only buying the ingredients that support my low-calorie lifestyle, I can lose weight. Therefore I recommend using an online grocery service to help you lose weight.

If this article was helpful to you, please comment and let me know. I understand that online grocery services are not available everywhere. Hopefully they will come to a location near you soon.

Related Articles:
17 Healthy Habits to Successfully Lose Weight
10 Ways for Maintaining Weight Loss
New Year’s Focus Word- Identity

Lifestyle

Food Tracking to Gain Weight

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I asked my sister Michelle to share her story of using food tracking to help her maintain and even gain weight as she lives with the disease of gastroparesis. As the Food Tracking Momma, I know that counting and logging your calories will help with many different issues including losing weight, maintaining your weight, and even gaining weight if you are an athlete or in the case of my sister, fighting a medical condition.

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Lifestyle

Lose Weight For Free

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As a weight loss blogger, I am often on many different social media channels researching information and supporting the followers of this blog. Currently, as I spend time online, I am inundated with various weight loss programs advertising their programs to help people lose weight. Most of these programs are subtle variations of counting calories and logging your food in an electronic diary (food tracking). Food tracking doesn’t have to cost you money. You can lose weight for free by counting calories!

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Lifestyle

Non-Scale Victories

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I am pleased to again introduce my friend Robin as a guest writer for the Food Tracking Momma blog. She is going to teach us today a new way to measure weight loss success. Non-scale victories (NSVs) are a way to focus our weight loss process onto more than weighing ourselves and having the scale dictate our response and mood.

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Lifestyle

10 Ways for Maintaining Weight Loss

This post may contain affiliate links, which means at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase.

I don’t want to discourage you, but I must be honest. Losing weight is great, but it’s only half of the battle. Equally important is the process of maintaining weight loss. When I lost 70 pounds, I was determined to not gain it back. Below are 10 ways I have used to successfully maintain my weight loss. I have included professional sources to support that these ways are applicable to most anyone for maintaining weight loss.

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Lifestyle

New Year’s Focus Word- Identity

This post may contain affiliate links, which means at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase.

I am pleased to introduce Robin who wrote this guest post. Robin is in full-time ministry as a Children’s Director, she is a wife and mom of twin 5 year olds, and is a good friend. Thanks, Andrea- The Food Tracking Momma

With this new year, I have heard many people recommend choosing one focus word as opposed to setting traditional new year’s resolutions. This is not a focus quote but a word that you will meditate on for the entire year. After some contemplation, I have determined my new year’s focus word is “identity”. Let me tell you why this word is applicable to both you and me.

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Lifestyle

New You Challenge for the New Year

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The new year is such a great time to commit to new beginnings! Some people discourage making New Year’s resolutions, but I encourage you to consider a new way, a new habit, a new healthier lifestyle that will lead to a healthier, new you. For this New You challenge, I would like you to join me this New Year in learning ways to lose weight and become a healthier person.

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Lifestyle

Fast Versus Slow Weight Loss

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When I made the decision to lose weight, I considered either a fast weight loss diet to lose weight quickly or a slow weight loss method to lose weight over time. For me, I knew I did not want to lose weight to only gain it back after a short period of time. I needed a weight management solution that would help me successfully lose weight and keep the weight off long term.

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Lifestyle

17 Healthy Habits to Successfully Lose Weight

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This blog is committed to helping you successfully lose weight! This article will give 17 habits that will allow you to successfully weight loss.

1. Count your calories and log them in an electronic food diary

Well, after all, I AM the Food Tracking Momma. This habit helped me lose 70 pounds. And minus serious medical issues, it can work for you also. Take a few minutes after every meal and log your calories. Stay under your recommended calories for the day. This habit teaches you to become accountable for what (and how much) you eat in a day. For more information, please see my post, How I Lost 70 Pounds by Counting Calories.

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