How Our Children’s Diets Affect Their Behavior
Sitting in a restaurant, waiting for my take out, a small boy of six or seven years old was bouncing off the walls waiting with his mom. He would ask a question of his mother, and without waiting for a reply, he would repeat the question over and over and over again. His mother’s solution was to slap him every once in a while. He seemed to be a bright child, but his energy was over the top. Definitely a child (and mother) suffering from hyperactivity, or what is so loosely termed these days as ADD or ADHD.
Children are receiving such automatic diagnosis for ADD, ADHD, and hyperactivity, and their doctors are prescribing intense medications that seem to strip these children of their childhood as they draw into a zone of emptiness. The medications numb their personality and character as they just sit staring as if a patient in a psych ward. If a child is too active for the adults around him, or finds it difficult to concentrate in school, the first recommendation is to take him to see a doctor. Then the doctor prescribes the mind deteriorating drugs. A cycle we must educate parents and schools on how to break.
An overly active child or a child who struggles to pay attention is suffering from something so much easier to solve than by pumping them full of narcotics. As I watched the little boy in the restaurant, I fought the urge to tell his mother that he is showing clear signs of a food allergy. That is all it is. It may be something as simple as eggs or oranges, or it may be a bit more complex and be an allergic reaction to an ingredient such as a food color, a preservative, or a non-sugar sweetener.
The public school system seems to think they must serve all these pre-processed, pre-packaged foods to save money. The truth is, they have not taken the time to compare the price of a healthy menu with that of the one served daily to our children. The foods we fill our most precious possessions with are causing much more harm than we know. It seems to be a very vicious cycle as we feed these overly processed foods to our young, punish them for behaviors we are uncomfortable with, send them to a doctor, then put these high toxic drugs into their systems.
Some schools, although not many at all, in this country have taken the time to readjust their menu in order to actually take the health of the children into consideration. They have replaced canned vegetables with fresh vegetables and salad bars. They have replaced frozen meat patties with roasted chicken, freshly made meatloaf, and shredded pork. They have replaced pudding and gelatin cups with freshly made cookies, and they have completely eliminated sodas and fruit drinks while adding bottled water and juices to be sold along with the usual school milk.
In the readjustments of school menus, these few schools who have taken the time to experiment with the school foods, they have not only put nutrition back into the students lives, but they have also noticed they are saving a few hundred dollars each year. So why are we still feeding most of the children ADD, ADHD, and hyperactivity causing foods? The world of education and educators in our country seem very uneducated when it comes to the absolute well-being of our children.
My daughter recently began a class that was added to her schedule as a “mainstream” class. This is her first class she has ever experienced outside of her special education program and we are thrilled for her to have the opportunity as well as progression to experience a class that would bring some “normalcy” into her world. The class is titled Health and Nutrition. I received a letter from her new teacher stating what the class was all about. The letter explained that my daughter would learn the importance of healthy eating, proper diet, and food preparation (cooking).
After my daughter had been in the “nutrition” class for a week, I asked her how it was going and what she was doing in the class. She said she just sits there because the teacher only calls the other students to help (another story), and then she said, “But she gives us candy and soda every day!” I just about fell over when she told me this! This is how they are teaching our students, to say one thing and do another. My daughter who is having a difficult time with her weight as it is, was put into a class where we believed she would get a school dose of what she learns at home. So far they have made deep fried foods, ate candy, and drank sodas. And before her “nutrition” class, she gets to eat the school cuisine when I don’t have time or the means to pack her a lunch.
At home, we make a healthy family meal every evening. We make it a point not to have any foods that are pumped full of preservatives in the house. Our children eat very healthy at home, so to know that not only are our school lunches poisoning them, but our daughter’s “nutrition” teacher is contradicting everything she is supposed to be teaching my daughter and all her other students as well.
As a teacher myself, I know for a fact that one of two things happen to all children after they eat lunch. Either they drift off in their classes that follow lunch, or they bounce off the walls. It amazes me that we are not aware of the cause of this behavior, or if we are, we are not doing a thing about it but punishing those who have no control over their behaviors that are being created by the foods they eat. When the same children are getting the same overly processed foods at home, like canned spaghetti, fruity cereals, or frozen dinners, to name a few, then they are only receiving the ADD, ADHD, and hyperactivity causing foods. They are getting a double dose of nothing but chemicals put into their systems. This is where the “nutrition” teacher should be stepping in the most. Not adding to the problem.
It is time we stopped taking the “easy way out”, and instead opened our eyes to our children. We need to get educated on the facts about nutrition and the hazards of poor diets. Bad eating habits do not only cause weight gain, bad eating habits also cause neurological damage, hyperactivity, poor grades, and dark rings under the eyes of so many children. The next time you have a chance, go to lunch with your child or grandchild. Eat with them at school and take notice to what your child is being fed. It may cause you to think twice about bagging a lunch for them rather than paying for the school menu.