My name is Lisa Tsakos, Registered Holistic Nutritional Consultant, corporate speaker and author. This blog provides professional advice from a nutrition and weight loss expert (me!) about corporate and family health. Here you'll find recipes and articles that address work-related challenges like eating on-the-go and maximizing your productivity with the right foods. You'll also find out about how you can help your children develop strong immune systems and healthy bodies. As a nutrition instructor, I often found myself thinking, "When I have kids, this is how I will feed them." With two toddlers, I have the opportunity to practice what I have been preaching and to try out my theories. So far, they seem to be working! Follow me on my journey and also on Twitter @NuVitalityHW.

21 Dec 2011

Artificial Colors Where You Least Expect Them

Not long ago my 18 month old (at the time) daughter and I were at a play date. In the middle of my first trimester, I was feeling as bad as I imagined I could possibly feel, so when the treats and desserts (not for me, but for my baby) began parading in front of her, every ounce of energy I could muster was used resisting. After a while, I succumbed. Luckily my daughter refused all the desserts (God bless her): the wheat-based cookies (gluten), the three-layer cake iced with artificial colors (can you believe that this would be offered to a one-year old?), but ultimately, even she couldn’t pass up the strawberry-flavored yogurt-drink. It was a well-known brand that’s heavily marketed to children (and of course, parents) as a ‘health drink’. I quickly looked over the ingredients and didn’t notice any red flags, so she drank a little less than half the bottle before losing interest. Within an hour, my daughters’ whole demeanor changed. Suddenly, the articulate child could not speak clearly, but instead, slurred her words. When my husband came home from work, the first words out of his mouth were, “What’s wrong with Olivia?” She was writhing around on the floor like an animal making incomprehensible sounds. I even caught a minute or two on video. My daughter has ingested sugar, she has had dairy, and yogurt is one of her preferred foods (most often plain yogurt), so I knew there was something in that product that I missed when glancing over the ingredients.
The next day, while Andrea Donsky, http://www.naturallysavvy.com/ co-founder and close friend, and I drove to an appointment, she checked out the ingredients on her smart phone while I drove. Somehow I missed it the day before, but there it was – artificial colors.
Olivia’s behavior was back to normal within an hour or two, but the change that occurred made a real impression on my husband and I. It happened again recently while on vacation when she ingested strawberry ice cream.  

Many parents have observed similar behavioral changes in their children following the ingestion of sugar, various artificial additives (including food dyes), gluten, dairy products, and even fruit. The most frightening part of this story is that the child Olivia was playing with ingests this particular ‘health drink’ daily (her caregivers are convinced that it’s good for her). I wonder how many children are exposed to behavior-altering substances in their food (even in so-called healthy food) on a regular – even daily – basis, ingredients that may impact their learning or behavior that parents are unaware of.
Watch for a future blog for an explanation of a rotation diet that you can use to identify whether or not specific foods or ingredients are affecting your child’s (or even your own) behavior. In the meantime, read all labels carefully and avoid any questionable ingredients.