5 Foods That Negatively Affect Your Child’s Mood

5 Foods That Negatively Affect Your Child's Mood_mini

Parents intuitively know that food can impact their child’s behavior and mood. We know that sweets, for example, can cause bouts of hyperactivity. But mood-altering food isn’t limited to sugar – there are other culprits in the snacks and meals that we feed our little ones. The following five foods are the most common contributors to mood and behavioral changes in children.

  1. Dairy. If your child is lactose intolerant or allergic to the proteins found in dairy, you may see changes in her mood and behavior. Many children become irritable, cranky, or aggressive. Children with dairy allergies or intolerance also tend to suffer from frequent colds and ear infections. Babies may exhibit colicky symptoms, whereas toddlers and older children may become inconsolable and irritable.
  2. Artificial Coloring. Many countries have banned artificial coloring due to the detrimental effects these chemicals have on children. Linked to ADHD, anxiety, hyperactivity, and headaches in children, artificial coloring can also cause significant behavioral changes. Because artificial coloring is in many sugary foods, parents often blame behavioral changes on sugar. Artificial coloring is often hidden in unexpected foods such as bread and yogurt. Avoid products with yellow No. 5, red No. 40, and blue No. 1 if you’re concerned about your child’s mood swings after consuming food with artificial coloring.
  3. Sugar. Sugar can cause a child to be hyperactive. Unless they’re eating a whole foods-based diet, sugar is in just about everything the average child eats. Sugar has been shown to cause long-term health damage, and a diet high in processed foods has been linked to depression, cognitive delay, and sleep problems.
  4. Preservatives. Several preservatives may cause behavioral problems in children. They include but are not limited to nitrates, nitrites, and sodium benzoate. Monosodium glutamate (MSG) is a flavor enhancer that also causes mood and behavior changes, including headaches and hyperactivity. Sodium benzoate is commonly found in juice products marketed toward children.
  5. Food Allergens. Common food allergens are dairy, nuts, eggs, soy, and corn. When a child has an intolerance or an allergy to a particular food, it can cause significant health and behavior issues. However, it can be difficult to pinpoint which allergen is making your child sick without the help of an allergist. A food intolerance, for example, is often missed and a child is instead diagnosed with ADHD.

If you notice behavior changes or mood swings in your child, consider keeping a food journal. Track what they eat and when they exhibit concerning behavior. Try eliminating suspicious foods to see if the behavior changes. While food isn’t the cause of all behavioral issues and conditions, it’s important to make sure that your child is not suffering from something that can be easily remedied.

Related: Food Allergies in Kids

5 Responses to 5 Foods That Negatively Affect Your Child’s Mood

  1. Trisha Roberts May 1, 2016 at 3:59 pm #

    Do children “out grow” their food sensitivities? I have hear many varying opinions about this. My adopted son had a lactose intolerance as a child and was extremely colicky the firs year of life. We were living outside of the US at that time and did not have access to other formula options. It was miserable! He is older now and seems to handle some dairy, but I’d love to hear about your experiences. Trisha at proeducationaltoys.com

  2. Paul Gemmell March 23, 2017 at 12:37 pm #

    I think you hear varying opinions because there are varying outcomes, even within an individual child. My son seems to have outgrown cat allergies but not dog allergies. Regarding food, he had allergies to dairy for the first three years of his life but now has no problems with milk, yogurt, and ice cream, other than some indications of dry skin that goes along with consuming these. He was diagnosed with egg and peanut allergies but we have not “challenged” these ever. He eats “may contain” items with egg or peanuts, but nothing that says “contains.”

  3. Meera August 23, 2017 at 9:02 pm #


    Nutritious meal plan is essential for child’s optimal growth & development. Ceregrow provides a food time table & chart for 2-3 years old baby’s daily diet plan.
    indian baby food recipes for 2 year old

  4. Ahmed Abdulkader September 9, 2017 at 1:44 am #


    i would like to thank you about this article,

    but i have a question: i have 2 babies, one of them has 16 month is called Anas, and another has 45 days is called Eyad,
    Anas now live on milk tray which we buy from market because this is the alternative solution to mother’s Milk, this is healthy or not?, if not what is your opinion?

    Thanks and Best Regards.

  5. Kathie Null November 12, 2017 at 12:37 pm #

    I adopted my now 13-yo daughter from foster care at age 3. She has been diagnosed with RAD, PTSD, anxiety, ADHD, SPD. While I don’t necessarily doubt any of those diagnoses, I do know that she has a truly crappy diet. She refuses fruits and veggies most of the time, and many meats. If she had her way, she would eat noodles every meal. She sneaks foods, usually carb. How do I know what behaviors are dx/traumatic history, and which might be food related? We live in a rural area. What sort of specialist should I be looking for to determine?

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