Food Can Affect Your Child’s Behaviour

Did you know?

Sometimes it seems that human behaviour revolves around food. Food and mealtimes are such an important social component of today’s society and bring enjoyment to us in many ways. Food is much more than a daily need.

Do these statements sound familiar?

  • You can tell when my kids have eaten sugar. It makes them bounce off the walls.
  • My child gets so hyperactive when he eats anything with food colouring or additives”.

Sugar, food additives (e.g. food dye) or other food ingredients are often blamed for behavioural problems in children. Some parents and teachers link hyperactive behaviour with eating too many sweets. Although some children may be sensitive to some ingredients, there are many reasons for hyperactivity, poor behaviour and learning difficulties in children – and there is no scientific proof at this stage that sugar is solely the cause.

There are many common triggers relating to food that can affect a child’s behaviour. Meal skipping, food intolerances and allergies can all impact on behaviour. The relationship of the above to conditions such as ADHD and Autism are being researched and will be addressed in future articles.

Ask yourself:

  • Did my child do something exciting, out of routine or have a surprise of some kind earlier in the day or the day before? The excitement of an event can contribute to “hyper” behaviour.
  • Is my child lacking in outdoor activities? Possibly he needs to be more active and release some energy.
  • Is my child hungry? Children grow at a rapid rate and sometimes we do not realise that a child’s behaviour can be due to a need for food. Skipping meals is common. Missing breakfast is especially common and occurs in 1 in 4 children. Teachers often report that children who skip breakfast are less attentive and can be more disruptive in class.
  • Could my child be intolerant of certain foods or possibly even allergic? The prevalence of food intolerance is unknown but is estimated to occur in 10% of the population and as many as one in five adults and children, and probably one in three with behavioural issues, react allergically to common foods such as milk, wheat, yeast and eggs. Food intolerances can cause tiredness and mood changes. Children can become restless and irritated and any existing behavioural problems can be aggravated.

Many of the foods that we consume contain chemicals and are highly processed. Processed foods fit in with busy lifestyles and packaged foods are often an inclusion in children’s school lunches. Many of these foods contain artificial colourants and preservatives, which are thought to cause many behavioural problems.