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Behavior and Food
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Behavior and Food

My daughter is 7 years old.  She has a great personality, never meets a stranger.  Sometimes I think she is too outgoing.  My daughter is in the first grade and we thought she was doing great, until one night her teacher called me at home telling me how horrible she was acting.  She would try to tell the teacher what to do, she was domineering over the other children and they didn't like her and she was always talking when she shouldn't. Of course this phone call came as a complete surprise because when we would ask our daughter how her day went, she would always say she had a good day.  During the phone conversation with her teacher, she mentioned about a note she sent home that I never got.  When I asked my daughter, she told me she throw it away before I could see it.  We had a conference set up with her teacher.  She said our daughter was top in her class as far as academic went, making 100's on math, spelling and most all of her reading test, but that her social skills were horrible.  She commented that my daughter appear to have low self esteem and would cry when something didn't go her away.  Since the conference with the teacher, we have notice these behaviors at home.  She has no respect for authority and we have to tell her something 2 or 3 times before she will do it.  She has been checked for ADD/ADHD and that was negative, but the doctor did say by indication of the test she definately had a behavioral problem.  We are trying to control this problem.  When she has a bad day at school, she has her tv and radio taken away.  When she doesn't do what she asked 1st time, she gets spanked.  This doesn't seemed to be helping any.  With this said, my daughter has a horrible eating habit.  If would make her try something new, she ALWAYS THROWS UP and throws a fit at the table.  We've made her go to bed several times without supper because she would not eat what I fix.  The only things she will eat is pizza, hot pockets, hot dog, corndog, bacon, cereal and bologna. I work for a nutritional company and they tell me her behavior is being caused by what she is eating, could this be true and if so what do I do?
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Dear Kathy,

I wouldn't go so far as to say that your daughter's behavior is caused by what she eats. That is probably an overstatement. However, it is true that nutritional and metabolic factors can have direct influences on children's behavior. Particular offenders in this regard are such items as processed sugars, wheat gluten, excessive carbohydrates in general, and various food additives and preservatives. In a more general sense, children who tend to be picky eaters, with limited range of foods in their diets, are prone to insufficient intake of necessary vitamins and minerals.

One straightforward step you can take is to maintain your daughter's daily diet without change for a couple of weeks, and keep a daily log of what she eats. Then, schedule an appointment with a nutritionist, preferably one with some pediatric experience, and submit the log in advance. The purpose of this is to identify glaring excesses or omissions in your daughter's diet and to receive some guidance about changes.

Also, you might want to take a look at one or two books on the topic of diet and behavior in chldren. Here are a couple of suggestions:Caring for Your Child with Severe Food Allergies (by Lisa C. Collins), Feeding Your Allergic Child (by Elisa Meyer), and Healthy Food for Healthy Kids (by Bridget Swinney).
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Sounds like her diet is as bad as my son's was!  Very picky eater and I think it stems from a texture/sensory issue not so much the taste. Eating all the things with artificial ingredients can have a very negative impact on behavior. Spanking and punishing is not the solution and will only make her hate mealtimes.  

We solved this problem by some bribery and cooperation.  Cook two things she likes for each meal and one thing she does not like.  Make a sticker chart and give her a sticker for each day for each non-favorite food she takes a bite of.  Make her take one bite of each food then start over; Kyle always wants to eat ALL of his favorite food first then he is full and does not want to eat anything else. And praise her to high Heaven when she does eat something new.  Use positive reinforcement instead of negative and make this a cooperative effort.  We did the sticker chart for a couple of weeks then didn't need it any more.  He eats a lot of things now and eats a pretty good variety of things.  He isn't crazy about some things but will eat them.  Kyle was 5 when we started and I talked to him often about how he needs to eat a better variety of foods in order to grow up and have strong muscles.  

Eliminate all artificial dyes, flavors and preservatives from her diet.  Cook from scratch and use no preprocessed foods.  Time consuming? Yes.  Worth it?  Yes.  Limit sugar, sodas, juices and anything with corn syrup.  Read the labels and see all the artificial ingredients she is eating.  Let her have her favorites but only once per week and don't feed the same food in a 4 day period.  Kyle has been on an additive free diet for a year and a half and it has helped so much.  He likes the fact that he feels so much better and avoids the foods he should not eat on his own.  Give a good multivitiamin with no artificial ingredients as she is bound to be deficient in vitamins/minerals eating what she does.  You can supplement also with 50 mg B-complex, 50 mg B-6, 400 mg magnesium, and calcium each day.  Dairy is notorious for causing allergies and behavior problems so you may want to try avoiding all dairy products for a couple of weeks to see if she improves.

Try reading "Is This Your Child" by Dr. Doris Rapp, "Special Diets for Special Kids" by Lisa Lewis.  Another good one is "THE ADD Nutriton Soltuion" by Marcia Zimmerman.
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