How Not to Raise a Little Terror

04 August 2015

A topic that directly relates to myself and any mother of an energetic child, is Additives.

My son is two years old and as a parent I try my hardest to provide a diet that is natural, raw and as organic as possible. However, we are human and yes we do attend social outings where the food available contains excessive amounts of additives (yes, chocolate birthday cake turns him into Spiderman!).

A food additive is a substance that is added to food to enhance its flavour and appearance or to extend its shelf life. These additives in both food and drinks, have directly been linked to temper tantrums and other bad behaviour within children. A study conducted by scientists in the United Kingdom found three-year-old children were more likely to have concentration issues, interrupt others, lose their temper, and have problems falling asleep when they consumed juice containing food colourings and preservatives.

Fortunately, Dr. Alan Greene, a paediatrician and a Healthy Child Healthy World advisor, developed a list of five key additives to avoid:

Artificial Colours

Anything that begins with FD&C (e.g. FD&C Blue #1)

Chemical Preservatives

Butylated Hydroxyanisole (BHA), Sodium Nitrate, Sodium Benzoate

Artificial Sweeteners

Aspartame, Acesulfame-K, Saccharin

Added Sugar

High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS), Corn Syrup, Dextrose, etc.

Added Salt

Look at the sodium content and choose foods with the lowest amounts.

Some additional tips to help minimise your food additive intake:

Attend local farmers markets

Choosing whole and organic foods. A great way to teach your children where ‘real’ food comes from whilst purchasing local organic and whole food produce (Organic packaged foods have little or no added synthetic colours or preservatives) Eating a balanced diet of fresh produce will go a long way towards keeping additives out of your child’s system.

Monitor what your child eats

Keep a diary for one week, noting everything that your child eats – including at daycare/school. At the end of the week you should have a good idea of your child’s exposure to food additives. They are largely present in processed and packaged foods, lollies/sweets, chips, fizzy drinks and other “junk” food. Through limiting these foods, you will reduce the amount of additives considerably.

Choose products that are labelled “preservative-free.”

Marketing is a tricky one here- be wary of labels that claim “no added preservatives.” These products will still contain ingredients that were preserved prior to inclusion in the final product. Almost all lard (fat used in baked goods) is treated with BHA or BHT.

Read the labels!

Its inevitable to avoid everything, however, keep a watch for ingredients on the list above and you will begin to reduce the amount of additives consumed.

Grow a vegetable garden

Growing a vegetable garden lets children taste the wonders of fresh food whilst creating a valuable nutrition lesson on the importance and joys of eating fresh foods. Best of all, children can pick their harvest and consume a meal that is entirely additive free.

Key additives to watch for:

Artificial Colors

(in sweets, drinks, takeaways, cereals and many processed foods)

102 tartrazine

104 quinoline yellow

107 yellow 2G

110 sunset yellow

122 azorubine

123 amaranth

124 ponceau red

127 erythrosine

128 red 2G

129 allura red

132 indigotine

133 brilliant blue

142 green S

151 brilliant black

155 chocolate brown Natural colour

160b annatto (in yoghurts, icecreams, popcorn etc, 160a is a safe alternative)


Preservatives 200-203 sorbates (in margarine, dips, cakes, fruit products)

210-213 benzoates (in juices, soft drinks, cordials, syrups, medications)

220-228 sulphites (in dried fruit, fruit drinks, sausages, and many others)

280-283 propionates (in bread, crumpets, bakery products)

249-252 nitrates, nitrites (in processed meats like ham)

Synthetic antioxidants - in margarines, vegetable oils, fried foods, snacks, biscuits etc

310-312 Gallates 319-320 TBHQ, BHA, BHT (306-309 are safe alternatives)

Flavour enhancers - in flavoured crackers, snacks, takeaways, instant noodles, soups 621 MSG 627, 631, 635 disodium inosinate, disodium guanylate, ribonucleotides

Table compiled by Sue Dengate, author of the bestselling book and film 'Fed Up: Understanding how food affects your child and what you can do about it.'

Written by

Belinda Brown

Belinda Brown is a food and lifestyle coach with qualifications in food coaching and nutrition. Belinda’s passion lies in child nutrition, the role of nutrition in chronic diseases and healthy weight loss; however, she has an array of clients from all walks of life. Belinda’s mission is to inspire and educate people to learn that quality nutritious food can be delicious. For more information on Belinda, visit and

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