Hyperactive. Inattentive. Unfocused. Overactive.

These are the labels one teacher put on my child when she was in kindergarten. As most mommies, I thought that can not be MY kid she is referring.

Happy, calm child

Learn simple food swaps you can do to calm the overactive child.

As the weeks went on, the blips on behavior increased. Every few days a note was sent home outlining challenging behavior and the week would end on a “red light.” My child knew that a red light week was not good; and more so, that on a chart in the classroom listing 24 kids, her name, along with four others, frequently were in the red.

Two pediatricians and several assessments later, we had a conclusion. Yes, she was a busy kid, and, actually an overactive child, but thankfully, she didn’t fit the paradigm for medication.

But…we still had a problem.

As one who is prudent about health, wellness and nutrition, I began to research foods and additives in my child’s meals. I knew I was feeding her healthy meals. Eggs, oatmeal or whole grain cereals, 2% milk, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, string cheese, whole fruit, lean meats, green veggies…what could I do different?

Then, I recalled reading about high fructose corn syrup and other food additives that contribute to hyperactivity in children who are labeled overactive.

In a blog by Jennifer Byrne, she states: ” Hyperactivity is perhaps the most well-known possible behavioral effect of high fructose corn syrup and other sugars. According to the ADDitude website, corn syrup as well as corn sweetener and corn syrup solids are implicated in child hyperactivity. Although the sugar/hyperactivity connection is a source of some debate, ADDitude cited a study conducted at the University of South Carolina, which found that hyperactive children who consumed large amounts of sugar behaved in a more destructive and reckless manner.”

I became meticulous about reading the ingredient labels of “healthy” foods I was purchasing for my child. To my surprise, many of the staples of her diet were not in fact healthy, but contributing to her moods, energy level and as one teacher said “being on fast forward.” In other words, this contributed to her becoming an overactive child.

That is when I discovered six food swaps that dramatically changed my child’s behavior. I eliminated foods with high fructose corn syrup and purchased alternatives. While I paid more for these healthier choices, I began to experiment under the mantra of “it’s cheaper than a co-pay.” Within weeks, the same teacher asked what medication I put my child on and my daughter made the comment that her “brain slowed down.” I too noticed her “speed” was no longer 78rpm!

What Worked for Us
I focused on the six foods listed below that are commonly manufactured with high fructose corn syrup and exchanged them for products with organic or preservative-free ingredients.

  • Peanut butter
  • Jelly
  • Milk
  • Bread
  • Juice and kid-beverages
  • Snack foods

I was surprised to learn not all but many of the brands of white and chocolate milk on the market are sweetened with high fructose corn syrup. Same with white, wheat and whole grain breads, drink boxes and children’s snacks. Even jelly, which has naturally occurring sugar from the fruit, has added high fructose corn syrup.

Moving forward, understand what “natural” or “organic” means on labels with regard to HFCS. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not regulate the use of the word “natural”. Foods and beverages can be labeled as “natural” even though they contain high fructose corn syrup, because fructose is a naturally occurring sugar. The word “organic” is heavily regulated; only foods labeled as 100% organic can be assumed to be HFCS-free. Read the labels, pay a little more, and as a result, you could temper your overactive child while ensuring they are eating a bit healthier.

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