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Do your kids get crazy energetic after they eat processed food? Hidden additives could be to blame.

Educator Christine Thompson-Wells is on a mission to raise awareness about the additives hidden in manufactured foods though her recently launched book, ‘Devils In Our Food’. In her book, Christine highlights the ways everyday food products (that you can probably find in your pantry right now) can impact our kids’ behaviour.

“When children consume highly processed, sugary-based foods it creates a hormone rush,” says Christine. “This hormone rush allows the hormone dopamine to be released, which interferes with the working of the synapse and neurotransmitters in a child’s brain. Dopamine is a demand hormone, meaning the more the brain has, the more the brain wants.”

As this sugar rush hits their system, the demand for sweeter foods can become more intense, making your children unsettled and tempered. 

“Extreme behaviour patterns not normally exhibited may also become evident, such as ADHD or ADD, because the child’s body and brain are in a state of stress,” says Christine. “Later, when the sugar rush begins to wear off, a child’s behaviour may change again as they start to become irritable, unhappy and naughty.”

According to Australian and New Zealand food standards, manufacturers don’t have to declare food additives on the information panel of a food product if the quantity is below 5%. As a result, many consumers won’t know that they are consuming these mood-altering ingredients.

“Food additives are used to make products look fresher, last longer and taste sweeter, but this comes at the expense of our health,” says Christine. “Additives are particularly harmful for children, causing significant behavioural issues and interfering with growth and development.”

After reading Devils In Our Food, mum Katrina Kirk said it was a massive game changer for her whole family.

“Having family members who suffer from ADHD and food intolerance to certain additives, this book has opened my world to understand why they respond the way they do,” says Katrina. “The book has now allowed me to work with them and to educate them on the reasoning behind their ups and downs and mood swings.”

“It is important to understand the link between poor behaviour and the food we give our children,” says Christine. “Popular, everyday food products are full of hidden additives that can cause significant health problems such as headaches, skin irritation, neurological disorders, birth defects, behavioural problems and some cancers.”

To get you started, Christine has shared four common children’s food products and suggested healthier alternatives.

  1. Swap breakfast cereals for organic oats
    Aspartame, Nutrasweet and Equal (951) are flavour enhancing additives that are often found in popular breakfast cereals. Aspartame is linked to many health problems including dizziness, speech problems and neurological disorders. Organic oats with fresh fruit topped with blueberries and honey is a great alternative that won’t leave children bouncing off the walls.
  2. Swap soft drinks for freshly squeezed juice
    Dimethyl Dicarbonate (242) is a dangerous yeast inhibitor which can be found in carbonated and noncarbonated drinks such as children’s soft drinks. If inhaled it can cause breathing difficulties and irritation to the nose, throat and respiratory tract. Freshly squeezed juice is a much healthier alternative and provides some fun for kids in the kitchen.
  3. Swap pre-made baby foods for mashed organic vegetables
    Starch Acetate (1420) is an additive that can be used in baby foods. It is linked to high cholesterol, pathological changes in the lungs and stomach disorders. Mashed organic vegetables are high in vitamins and minerals to strengthen your child’s immune system, without the added sugar and preservatives.
  4. Swap sugary spreads for honey as a natural sweetener
    Acesulphame potassium (950) is often found in popular food spreads and is at least 200 times sweeter than sugar. It is used in food to stimulate the pleasure centre of the brain, which creates problematic behaviours in children. Parents should opt for honey as a natural source of sweetness.
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