Picture this: You and your family are attending a celebration such as a child’s birthday party, a graduation or a holiday event. Someone leans over to you and says, “Look at these kids just bouncing off the walls! They are on a sugar high!” This is one of the most common misperceptions I hear about food – especially when it comes to children. Both sugar and food colors have, undeservedly, become common scapegoats for hyperactivity (and sometimes just energetic behavior) in kids.
As a registered dietitian, I help people make well-informed nutrition decisions for themselves and their families. My recommendations aren’t just based on opinion but on scientific evidence. I try to reassure people that sugar and food colors do not cause kids to “bounce off the walls.”
August is Kids Eat Right Month. To celebrate, here are some credible information and resources on child nutrition and some facts about sugar and food colors:
1. Consuming sugar does not cause a spike and crash in your blood sugar. Unless you have diabetes or reactive hypoglycemia, your body does an excellent job of keeping your blood sugar within a normal range. Also, these normal changes in blood sugar do not cause hyperactivity.
2. The potential relationship between food colors and hyperactivity has been studied for more than 30 years. Yet, research has not determined a “cause and effect” relationship. The vast majority of experts agree that food colors do not contribute to hyperactivity in children.
3. If you want to know which foods contain sugar or food colors, you can read the Nutrition Facts Panel and ingredients list on food products.
Are you still worried your child is reacting negatively to sugar, food colors, or any food for that matter? I would encourage you to seek the advice of a physician and a registered dietitian who specializes in food sensitivities. But keep in mind that dietary restrictions for children can be difficult to follow and should be avoided unless medically necessary.
A balanced approach that allows children to enjoy a variety of foods, including party treats, is a good foundation for your child. For more information about healthy eating for kids, check out the resources at http://www.eatright.org/resources/for-kids.