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Are your children becoming teenagers? Do your teenagers have trouble staying additive free when they are out and about with their friends?

For many families, living additive free has reduced (or completely eliminated) symptoms of asthma, ADHD, hyperactivity, sleeplessness, rashes, tantrums and more. Behaviour, health and learning has been improved by lots of families, making simple changes to the products purchased and eaten at home.

Eating away from home can be a challenge for those trying to stay strictly additive free – often there are no ingredient lists to check or knowledgeable chefs to ask. Parents have a number of options when eating out with their additive-free kids, including:

  • choosing to take their own food on outings;
  • choosing the best option of a range of “not quite right” foods;
  • ignoring what they eat and suffer the consequences later; or
  • just don’t eat out!

Experienced additive-free families have learnt to make good choices while out and about, avoiding big problem additives, depending on their families’ sensitivities. Newbies or less concerned families sometimes choose to ignore the ingredients of foods while eating out and deal with the consequences afterwards.

teenagers eating out

A big challenge for many families is when their young children start growing up and developing a mind of their own! Becoming tweenies/teenagers can result in more independence and freedom away from parents, requiring them to make their own food choices when out and about. This can be troublesome if the tweeny/teenager is not completely on board with the benefits of staying additive free, is not sufficiently educated on how to make the right choices or just wants to “fit in” with their friend group and eat what everyone else is eating.

If the reaction to food additives is something like oppositional defiance, the person experiencing the symptom may not acknowledge they are reacting to something they are eating – “I am not!”, “It’s your fault!”, “What attitude?”…frown, stomp, slam!

defiant girl

I remember working with a client a few years ago whose son would happily choose to avoid preserved drinks because the preservatives caused his asthma to flare up, making him feel unwell and unable to participate in sport. The same boy though would eat foods he knew contained MSG, because he didn’t see the link between MSG and his defiant behaviour. “What defiance?” he would argue.

So if you have kids who are much happier and healthier when they eat additive-free foods, it is beneficial to have them avoid additives as much as they can when they are eating outside the home. Here are some tips for helping tweenies and teenagers stay additive free, as much as possible:

  • help them understand the connection between food additives and their health and/or behavioural issues;
  • have a list of food alternatives for them to purchase when out with their friends;
  • give real life examples of choices that can be made to minimise reactions, for example asking for plain salt instead of chicken salt (MSG) when buying hot chips and choosing the non-coloured soft drink;
  • provide some additive-free snacks for them to keep in their bag/backpack rather than needing to buy food when they’re out (or to at least reduce the amount they need to buy/eat);
  • suggest they eat before they go out so they are less hungry and therefore less likely to eat additive-laden foods; and/or
  • offer to supply food for their friend group at your house as part of their outing.

From personal experience with our three boys (now 19, 21 and 23 years old), teenagers would mainly eat snack food when out with their mates. They were unlikely to grab a full meal. Snacks were bought from fast food restaurants, chicken shops or junk food aisles in supermarkets, often to take to the movies or to eat at the park. They wanted to feel part of the group, not the odd one out, so having options was the key to help them make wise choices when buying food with their friends. This was not a foolproof plan, of course. Our boys, even when additive free, occasionally made poor decisions, like we all do. But in most cases, they were able to choose foods lower in additives (or problem natural chemicals) that affected them. An example of the most popular additive-free snack was plain chips and lemonade, which was similar to their mates’ food.

As kids get older, and physically bigger, the reaction to foods containing additives often reduces. Through trial and error, most people work out their tolerance level of eating problem foods, including additives. For example, one of our sons suffered from chronic tic disorder at the age of 8. This was caused by the nasty antioxidants 319 and 320 used in oil to deep fry hot chips. After months of eliminating and challenging, we worked out he was able to tolerate one dose of commercially-bought hot chips occasionally, but not once per week, week after week. As he has got older (and bigger) he was able to have these more often without reaction.

I think the biggest tip for anyone with kids who react to food additives is to educate them on food intolerance reactions/symptoms, food additive numbers/names, how to avoid nasty additives and safe food alternatives.

If you need any help educating your family, contact me about a Wellness Coaching session. Or if you need some additive free product ideas, “Subscribe” to our newsletter to receive a free download “Easy First Steps to Additive Free”. If you want some extra product ideas, purchase a copy of the “SAFE Product List” in our Shop.

Please let me know what you think and if you have any extra tips for helping teenagers stay additive free.

By Jenny Ravlic

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