In Which We Don’t Go On a Diet

We have never done diet restrictions at our house. Which is saying something. It’s not just how everyone seems to be going gluten-free or paleo or whatever these days. There’s also the autism community where people are constantly trying new diets, like the GFCF (gluten-free, casein-free) diet and a bunch more.

Up until now we just wanted to get the kids fed. Period. We spent a good couple of years with Graham falling over ourselves to try and find food he’d eat.

But this week we’re changing things up.

Quitting Food Dye

Yup. We’re quitting food dye. Not all of them, but Red40 in particular.

After I wrote my post about Graham’s behavior making me crazy, he went on a sudden good behavior streak. I couldn’t explain it. Until I realized that he hadn’t had his normal NutriGrain bar in the morning. (We ran out of Blueberry ones, his favorite.)  We’d also run out of GoGurts. His fruit snacks and most other treats have natural colors (THANK YOU BJ’s Warehouse for having cheap kid snacks with no artificial colors.) Suddenly my lack of grocery shopping seemed to come in handy.

I’ve heard of other kids having their behavior tied to their consumption of food dye. But no, I thought. You are not that person. You know that half of the “green” and “healthy” mumbo jumbo isn’t based on science or fact. You do not operate this way. And yet…

I quit giving Graham Blueberry NutriGrain bars. And I switched to Stonybrook Yogurt with no artificial colors. (Simply GoGurts work, too, but they don’t have them everywhere.) Graham still had his share of bad behavior, but never to the level that we felt ready to give up.

And then on Saturday he got a haircut. He was given a lollipop by the stylist. And sure enough, for the rest of that day and a good portion of Sunday he was a holy terror.

So it looks like my theory has enough evidence to continue to keep it going. I’m going to look for some no-artificial-colors treats to give him when necessary. Hopefully I can keep some in my purse to stand in for any other goodies he may be offered.

It isn’t the first time I’m not who I thought I’d be when it comes to my kids. What can I say? Parenting isn’t about the means, it’s about the end. Right?

Bringing Lunch to School

Graham is now taking his lunch. I loved the school lunches. I would be happy to eat them. The menus were good, lots of whole wheat, vegetables every day, low priced. But as Graham’s become a better communicator, I’ve realized that he’s eating only the fruit and vegetable, which means he doesn’t touch the entree. And on days where he doesn’t approve of the vegetable that means his lunch is a piece of fruit.

I had clues. He demands snacks constantly from the moment he returns home until dinner time. And then, finally, there was the note from his teacher saying “Please send more snacks.”

I didn’t want Graham to bring his lunch. I didn’t want another thing to get ready every day. And then there was the question of what he’d bring. But once the decision was made it was a lot easier than I thought.

Rubbermaid has some nice bento-box style boxes. Graham has recently discovered he can dip things in ranch. Today his lunch was broccoli and baby carrots for dipping, peanut butter crackers, an fruit squeeze pouch, chocolate milk and a special surprise of red peppers. I also have extra supplies around the house, including mini corn muffins, celery and zucchini to keep trading veggies, and such. Plus I haven’t had to dip into his usual supply of snacks: fruit snacks, animal crackers, goldfish, dates. (Yes, the fruit. He’s crazy about them.) Or his usual breakfast: applesauce, yogurt and cereal.

It turns out it’s been really easy so far. And our new warehouse club membership has been a huge help. (I have no idea why their organic chocolate milk is so much cheaper than the ones everywhere else. I’m not asking questions.)

And so far Graham has come home with everything eaten except a little bit of leftover veggies, and when he gets home he sits down and dips them in the rest of his ranch.


Family Dinners

Last but not least, I’ve finally started to implement the family dinners I’ve been saying I’d do for months and months. It still involves a fair amount of difficulty with a certain picky eater. The other night he went to bed at 6 because he decided he didn’t want to eat his White Beans and Rice. (Even though he loves beans and rice. Oh, 3-year-olds.)

But he’s also been willing to eat stuff I never thought he would. Like Sausage and Tortellini Soup. Sure, I didn’t give him any sausage and it’s heavy on veggies he likes, but still! He likes his veggies raw and crunchy and these were soft. It took some doing, but he ate it and he liked it. SHOCKING.

While I don’t love spending dinner time negotiating with Graham, it’s still easier than it is when we’re not all sitting around the table together.

Miss Tess has done wonderfully well. I either make her a dish or feed her from my plate. Easy peasy.

There are still days where I don’t have everything together and dinner just doesn’t happen the way we’d like. But it’s gradually getting better. (Note to self: your beans and rice recipe takes 6 hours to simmer. Remember that next time so you’re not eating dinner at 9 pm.)


It’s a lot of changes for a short period of time, but we’re adjusting shockingly well. Just don’t expect to see any steamed kale on our table any time soon. And I guess I’ll have to start checking the ingredients of our favorite frozen pizzas for food dyes…


  1. says

    Personally I agree that the color additives in food make me feel funny/awful. I’ve never pin pointed which one specifically, I just try to avoid them if I can. This proves difficult because jelly beans, Flavor Ice, and just about anything Purple flavored are on the top of my favorite treats list.
    BakingSuit recently posted..WTF Just Ew.

  2. says

    Jessica, you will not regret this. Travis has been red40 free for 2 years now. Best decision we ever made. Ever. Period. Hands down. Even ONE twizzler will set him off for HOURS.

    6 months ago we had him go Gluten-Free. 100%, no cheating, gluten-free. It was hard, but we are use to it. As of December 15th, he is completely ADHD medication FREE. No drugs. Ever.

    Gluten and dye free have changed his life. I never thought he’d be able to go med free, but here we are. He is a new kid. You wouldn’t even believe it if you saw him in person.

    I am a firm believer that you are what you eat. We are all gluten-free around here – all of us. (Even Ben!)

    I could talk for hours about this, but I wont. But let me just say – research and read until you can’t read another word. You will be amazed at what crap is in our food. And learn about GMOs too. Read a book called Wheat Belly. Read this blog:

    Did you know food dyes are made with petroleum? As in, the oil byproduct? And we eat this crap? No wonder kids have ADHD and everything else under the sun.

    Call me if you want to chat about our experience with T. He was on ADHD meds for 4 years with no end in sight, yet after removing red dye and gluten, he is drug free and doing better than ever.
    Allison @ House of Hepworths recently posted..Hookin Up with HoH #134

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