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We Are What We Eat

You may have heard the phrase "we are what we eat". It's a tale as old as time that there is a relationship between what we eat and how we feel.

Whether we are gulping down a morning coffee for a burst of energy or comfort-eating ice cream after a tough day of work, we consume food and drink for more than just sustenance. Eating and drinking can also be about joy, celebration, energy and all the other emotions under the sun. In the right context, good food can be oh so good for the soul.

This is no different for our kids.

As parents, we always want to feed them foods that are nutritious, good for their development, fun and tasty. But as many of us find out the hard way, there can be a dark side to food. From sugar highs, to sugar crashes, the foods we feed our kids are inextricably linked to their moods (and moodswings!) and even to other medical side-effects.

Research suggests that unwanted chemicals and icky additives can be linked to a range of equally unwanted and icky issues.

We're no scientists, so we're certainly not the experts on this hot topic. But we have dived deep into the world wide web to bring you our findings.

Can Food Additives Affect Kids?

Here at Henderson's, we're all about keeping our products as natural as possible. That means no nasty chemicals, just simple and delicious bacon and salami.

But that's got us thinking – what are these chemicals we're trying to avoid and can they be harmful to kids (and adults!)?

Let's work backwards. The answer to the second question is yes; they can be harmful. The American Academy of Pediatrics published a policy statement titled Food Additives and Child Health, which warns about these harms in food and points out that they're often worse for children.


  • Because kids are smaller, any 'dose' of chemical additives ends up being higher.

  • Their bodies are also still developing, so they can be at more risk of developmental harm.

  • And they are young so the chemicals will usually have more time to do greater damage.

In short, these additives aren’t cool for us, but they’re even more uncool for our kids.

What Impact Can Food Additives Have on Kids’ Moods?

Research has shown that the food additives used in a wide range of foods and drinks can cause disruptive behaviour, anxiety, depression, a lack of concentration and insomnia for kids.

As parents, these are all red flags we would like to avoid!

A study conducted in the UK found a clear link between food colourings and preservatives, and changes in children’s mood and behaviour.

The scientists concluded that significant changes in children's hyperactive behavior could be produced by removing these colourings and additives from their diet. They added: 'The findings suggest that benefit would accrue for all children from such a change - and not just for those already showing hyperactive behavior or who are at risk of allergic reactions.'

Common Food Additives - What to Look For

So we're keen to keep these harmful food additives away from our kiddos. What are the nasties we should be keeping an eye out for? Keep in mind that some of these wouldn’t ever be found in bacon or salami - but we think you should know about them anyway!

Here are a few you might come across regularly in the supermarket aisles:

  • Artificial food colours

If something is brightly coloured and isn't a fruit or a vegetable, it probably contains artificial food colouring. Companies typically add artificial colours to make the food look more appetising – especially for children!

Research studies have found the dyes can contribute to hyperactive behaviour in children, anxiety, ADHD and headaches in children.

Some of the most common ones to look out for include:

102 tartrazine,104 quinoline yellow, 107 yellow 2G, 110 sunset yellow, 122 azorubine, 123 amaranth, 124 ponceau red, 127 erythrosine, 128 red 2G, 129 allura red, 132 indigotine, 133 brilliant blue, 142 green S, 151 brilliant black, 155 chocolate brown natural colour and 160b annatto.

  • Preservatives

Like artificial colouring, several preservatives have been linked to behavioural problems in children. Some of the most common ones to look out for include:

  • Nitrates and nitrites – You might have heard us talk about nitrates before on our website. Nitrates are what make other bacons pink – which might make them look appetising, but it's not all sunshine and roses. These nasty nitrates can cause hyperactivity, euphoria, and insomnia - all of which we would like to avoid when it comes to our kids!

Nitrates have been linked to negative health outcomes by the World Health Organisation. They can interfere with the thyroid and the body's ability to deliver oxygen to the body, along with increasing the risk of some cancers.

  • Sodium benzoate

  • Sulphites

  • Synthetic antioxidants

  • Flavour enhancers (in flavoured crackers, snacks, takeaways, instant noodles, soups - often referred to as MSG 621 MSG 627, 631, 635 disodium inosinate, disodium guanylate, ribonucleotides)

Keeping a Positive Food Mood

So now we know what to avoid… but how do we avoid these products for ourselves and our kids?

The world is a scary enough place without having to second guess everything we put into our bodies. .

We've put together our best tips for eating the right things and keeping our kids’ food mood positive.

  1. Cut back on fast food and processed foods. Look for products that are made naturally – like our Henderson’s meats! Always check the labels of what you’re purchasing at the supermarket and look for additives and preservatives like nitrates, sulphites, and the other common culprits we have listed above.

  2. Make sure kids eat regularly. If their blood sugar drops, it can make them tired and grumpy. Eating regularly and choosing foods that release energy slowly will help to keep their sugar levels steady.

  3. Get 5 a day! Buy and serve more fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables to your family. The best thing about fruits and veggies is that they’re nearly always natural, grown straight from Mother Earth.

  4. Feed the kids plenty of protein. Protein contains amino acids which make up the chemicals your brain needs to regulate feelings and thoughts. It will also keep them full for longer - which will avoid any crankiness and “h-anger”!

  5. If you notice behaviour changes or mood swings in your kids, consider keeping a food journal. Track what they eat and when they show any worrying behaviour. Test eliminating foods that you think may be causing the issues to see if their behaviour changes. If this doesn’t work, book in an appointment with your family doctor.

  6. Enjoy nutritious meals as a family. Food is meant to be both nourishing and delicious. It's all about balance, so you should feel no guilt indulging in a dessert of Henderson’s Bacon-Fried Apples together – but this should be enjoyed as part of a balanced diet that embraces natural and nutritious foods.


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