Diet advice may be extremely confusing regarding food and behaviour. It is possible to take a step by step approach.

Food is important to ensure that children are well nourished and to allow them to develop and grow optimally.
Food may also affect children’s behaviour – and some children may be more sensitive to these effects than others. It’s important to keep in mind that one should not look at any single factor that may affect behaviour in issolation.
A holistic approach that takes into account non-food factors such as personality, genetic background, psychological health and environmental factors (e.g. the size of the class) is vital.

Should a parent be advised to modify his or her child’s diet, it’s vital to keep in mind that optimum nutrition remains the most important aspect to take into consideration. It is also important to distinguish between “fad” recommendation that have not been substantiated and those that have been by proper and current scientific knowledge.

A step by step approach to nutrition and behaviour should highlight food factors and issues that need to be taken into consideration when treating children with behavioural difficulties. The factors that may have to be looked at are:

– Food Allergies.
– Gluten (Research done in autistic children).
– Casein (Research done in autistic children).
– Phenolic compounds [additive colours and flavours, Salicylates and the Benzoate preservative] and certain amines may result in increased incidence of hyperactive behaviour and irritability.
– Phenolic amines Phenylalanine and Tryptophan may have a relaxing/sleep modulating effect.
– Flavour – mild flavours are often better tolerated in children with behavioural problems.
– Caffeine is a stimulant and intake can result in over stimulation of the nervous system.
– GL and OVERALL GI of the diet – indicator of the quality of the diet.
– Sugar – may affect other food choices that may affect behaviour.
– Essential fatty acid status (Omega 3 fat (FLAXEED) and Omega 6).
– Micro Nutrients (B1, B 6, B 12, Folic Acid, Iodine) – affects overall physiological functioning.
– Minerals: Magnesium, Copper, Calcium, Zinc, Iron.
– Anaemia (Poor Blood) that could be the result of either Iron, or Vitamin B 12 and Foliate deficiencies.

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The “BETTER EAT for better behaviour in children” diet Phase 1, 2 and 3 in Health Tools/Diet Guides is a step by step guide that enables parents to implement certain basic changes before the more specialised exclusions are attempted. This may be especially helpful in children with behaviour difficulties not associated with e.g. autism.