Food additives, particularly Red40, is being discussed now with its potential ties to hyperactivity in children and adolescents. Many families are trying elimination diets, where they completely eliminate foods with Red40 from their children’s diet. This can be quite challenging, as a simple Google search pulled up the following foods (and many more…)

– pre-made frostings to make the golden, vanilla color.

– Pillsbury crescent rolls, frostings, supreme cake mix, and pie crust

– candy: red, dark brown, chocolate/coffee flavored, cinnamon, Altoids Cinnamon mints, M&Ms, Skittles, pink or cinnamon flavored chewing gum

– Cereals

– Diary: yogurt and ice cream – strawberry, raspberry, cherry flavors

– Drinks: Strawberry Kiwi V8 Splash, Hi-C, Ginger Ale, Gatorade, Crystal Light mix, Kool-Aid mix, Ocean Spray Ruby Red Grapefruit Juice, Lipton Brisk Iced Tea

– Sauces: Kraft BBQ Sauce, red tomato sauces, beef-flavored seasonings

– Snacks: Doritos, Toaster Strudel, Maraschino cherries, Hershey’s Syrup, Twinkies, Nutri-Grain bars, Pop-Tarts, Jello: mix, pre-made, and sugar-free-instant cups, Quaker Chewy Granola bars and fruit & oatmeal bars

Once again, this is just a sample of the more popular foods and brands.

When looking at this list, it made me think – an elimination diet of Red40 is primarily an elimination diet of processed foods in general. Is the focus of Red40 taking away from the bigger picture – a lifestyle of more wholesome, natural foods for your children and family?

If a child or anyone in your family suffers from ADHD or other forms of hyperactivity, an elimination diet of Red40 and food additives may be worth a shot. BUT, it may be time that we look at the bigger picture: teaching children about healthy, wholesome foods, why we eat them, what they do, and why they are important both for now and their health in the future. This could be a vital turning point where return to the theory that food is fuel, not a reward, and not a way to just “give the kids what they want” – which is exactly what the major brand’s marketing team wants.

This is by no means an easy process and is definitely easier said than done. Meeting with a Registered Dietitian can help give you meal, snack, and meal planning ideas for you and your family. Involving the whole family is also very important so that everyone is being supportive of the process and no one is being “singled out” or feeling like they have to eat “special foods.”

Lastly – decreasing processed foods and trying to incorporate a more wholesome diet and lifestyle does NOT happen overnight… or in a week… or in a month. You must allow yourself time to see what works for you and your family, what routines you can develop, what recipes work, etc. Having support from your family and the counseling of a Registered Dietitian can make this process successful!