Food Dye and Kids’ Behavior

All kids melt down sometimes, and mine are no exception. When my son was about 3 and a half, he started to have the occasional tantrum. I know that’s a normal part of development, but I didn’t realize other factors could be in the mix.

You know how sometimes you see something, but you don’t pay attention to it. Then it shows up again and you dismiss it. Until is shows up YET AGAIN and you finally say to yourself, “Okay, okay I will pay attention this time!”

Well, that happened to me with articles about kids and dyes in food and how they might affect behavior. There are lots of articles, but this TV news clip gives a pretty good overview: Food Dye Affects Children’s Behaviors

The articles I found go back a couple of years and the FDA and doctors have said there is no proven link.


Here’s the part that is relevant to me (which is why I am mentioning this to you).

After reading the articles, I started to pay more attention to food with dyes in my son’s diet. Over time, I figured out that when he consumes foods with dye – RED dye in particular – it really affects his behavior. I’ve tried to talk myself out of this connection – to disprove it – even as recently as last month:

The second week of school, my son’s preschool take home papers included about 10 gummy bears in a bag stapled to a piece of art. As we left school and headed for the car, he begged for the candy. I knew better, but I caved. He ate them all – including the red ones. A short while later, when we were in line to return something at a sporting goods store, that dye kicked in. He flipped his lid over something that normally wouldn’t bother him, and he proceeded to ram me over and over again (in the butt) with his head.

It was a head butt, I guess! And it hurt. (His head is seriously hard. As in, when he and another child bump heads – I check the other kid first.)

Anyway, I couldn’t calm him down (he was UNreachable) and I couldn’t get out of there fast enough.

This episode, for me, was the clincher. I don’t need any more articles, or information, or even a doctor to tell me what’s what. This kid is affected by brightly colored food.

Dyes are in EVERYTHING!

He’s kind of a picky eater, so it doesn’t help that dyes are in so many foods (even yogurt). But, we’ve gotten good at reading the labels, and he knows now not to ask me for things like Skittles. (But if someone else offers them when mom’s not around he would gladly take them. He is five, after all.)

Bottom line – reducing his intake of food with dye has been a good thing for us.

Have you noticed dyes affect your kids’ behavior?

11 Responses to Food Dye and Kids’ Behavior

  1. melissa October 8, 2012 at 11:16 am #

    Dyes do affect my kids. I really have had to read labels for sure.

    • Heather October 8, 2012 at 2:03 pm #

      You were one of the people who put out one of the articles I read on dyes. I can’t believe it had to come my way so many times for me to actually read it – especially since it was so helpful. So it goes.

      Thanks, Melissa.

  2. Teri October 8, 2012 at 9:02 pm #

    My cousin has 4 kids. The oldest had huge issues with dyes. She put him on the Feingold diet and said it worked miracles.

    • Heather October 8, 2012 at 9:42 pm #

      Thanks, Teri! Will check it out.

  3. Lisa October 8, 2012 at 9:31 pm #

    This is my take on that. My two sons are raising their children entirely different. My oldest and his wife work from the standpoint that they are the adults and they are in charge. My younger son and his wife act from the standpoint that they are a family and they will work out house rules. In my older sons house processed foods are a rare treat to be enjoyed on special occasiuons. In my younger sons house they are part of the everyday diet. All of the children have been known to melt down on occasion. All of the children will pretty much eat whatever is served. But I must say that my older sons household is more peaceful than my youngers. I think a healthy body creates s healthy brain that handles stress better. It is always better to eat in a the healthiest way possible.

    • Heather October 8, 2012 at 9:42 pm #

      Well said, Lisa.

  4. Anne October 10, 2012 at 11:25 am #

    Thanks for sharing about this. Many of us encounter this as parents. Isn’t it interesting that major food makers create a version without the artificial colors in other countries but they include the artificial colors for our children in the United States? I wonder why that is?

  5. Jen October 13, 2012 at 8:30 pm #

    We also belong to the Feingold Association — best thing I ever joined. Dyes are a problem but if your child reacts to them, I hope you also avoid the artificial flavors (esp. vanillin), some of the preservatives (BHA, BHA, & TBHQ and artificial sweeteners. They are bad for all us.

    • Heather October 14, 2012 at 9:21 pm #

      Thank you for your comment. I will totally start paying attention to the flavors, preservatives and sweeteners, too.


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