All Natural Mom's Guide to the Feingold Diet - Chapter 3

Chapter 3

How We Started the Diet

Once I signed up for the membership, I e-mailed Feingold and requested the log in name and password for the association’s web site. I couldn’t wait to get on the message board to read and ask questions. I got some ideas on getting started and I slowly emptied my pantry shelves. I wasn’t sure if I should use up the food I had or just get rid of it. I watched my son for reactions if he ate any unapproved foods. I quickly decided that I didn’t want to feed him foods that I knew were bad for him, even though it meant wasting money on food that was already paid for.

Out With the Old. In With the New.

We had shelves full of Kraft macaroni and cheese, SpaghettiOs ®, Campbell's ® soup, and Pop Tarts ®. Everything a typical American kid eats, or basically, everything you see on cartoon commercials. Oh, and the “fruit” snacks of course. I thought these were good for him because the packaging said it contained lots of Vitamin C and even contained a full serving of fruit. I thought he was getting food from all of the five food groups so we were doing good, right?

I gave all the unapproved food to an extended family member who was struggling financially.  She greatly appreciated it so I didn't feel as bad wasting all that money and I figured her kids were eating this stuff anyway. Sometimes people feel bad giving away food they know is bad, but I figure everyone needs to come to that place for themselves. Not giving them the food wasn't going to change how they ate so I didn't worry about it. You could also donate the food to a local food pantry.

I managed as best I could until our Feingold materials arrived. I read all I could on the Feingold message board. I tried to stick to the basics like meat, chicken, potatoes, and veggies and steered clear of any dyes. Some people choose to use up the food they already have and then start the diet after that, but it’s up to you.

Did We Start Out Doing the Diet 100 Percent?

Not completely. It took me a couple weeks to read through all the materials and understand the diet. Meanwhile, my kids had to eat. Our Whole Foods was about forty minutes away so I was only making a trip there once or twice a month.

I had to figure out which stores carried the foods I was looking for. Then I had to locate those foods within those stores. It was not easy to start the diet. Feingold lists out the approved foods, but they don’t tell you where to find them. I needed more organization. I made out my own personal shopping lists by store which I’ve posted on my blog.

When you first go shopping for your Feingold-approved foods, leave the kids at home. I was very overwhelmed at first. I was looking for foods that I wasn’t sure were even there or what they looked like. That’s why I love Whole Foods. Most of their foods are Feingold approved.

When we first started the diet, there were these Scooby Snack graham cracker cookies that my son loved. They weren’t Feingold-approved but when I read the label, it looked like it only contained artificial flavors. I knew that dyes were bad and I wanted to avoid those, but I wasn’t convinced about artificial flavors yet. So, I let him eat them sometimes. As we started the diet and he started to calm down, I started to notice that he did react to those artificial flavors and I finally bought into the whole diet.

As for stage one of the Feingold Diet, I wasn’t completely convinced of that either. I hated telling him he could not have fruit. It just didn’t seem American. We’ve all been raised to believe that fruit is good for you, and it is. However, the salicylates can be a big problem for some kids. I’ll discuss salicylates in chapter five.

In the first few weeks of the diet, I decided to let him still have his nightly snack of apple slices. I remember writing on the Feingold message board and asking if it was really necessary to do stage one completely. I explained how my son still had some issues, but that he was eating apples every day. They explained that I couldn’t expect success if I was only trying the program halfway. I decided to pull the apples, and did notice that my son indeed had issues with apples. Thus began our journey of doing the Feingold Diet, stage one and 100 percent compliance with the diet. 

How I Got My Son to Do the Diet

How did I convince my son to start the diet? Well, he was four and I was Mom. He was going to eat what I gave him. Okay, it was a little more than that, but for the most part, he went along with it and I was very grateful. If you have older kids, you might run up against more resistance, and have to deal with cheating when they are away from home. I’ll address that later in this chapter, but for us, it was pretty easy to get my son’s cooperation.

I explained to him why we were doing the diet. I told him what dyes were made of and that they were bad for him. I explained this further as he got older. I told him that dyes made it hard for him to control himself and that this diet was going to help him behave better. There was probably a better way to say that, but my son wasn’t sensitive so I just told it to him like it was. He knew he got into trouble a lot. He recognized very quickly after starting the diet that he was better able to control himself.

Like many kids, I think he also enjoyed the extra attention he was getting. I was making new foods, just for him. I was shopping at new stores, just for him. I was ordering special candy online, just for him. He wasn’t getting into trouble any more. He was staying out of time out. Mommy wasn’t yelling anymore. Mommy was happy. He started to make friends at school, and they started asking him on play dates (first time ever).

It wasn’t hard to convince him to do the diet. He was Feingold’s biggest fan. He would tell family and friends that he was on “The Gold Diet.” His favorite part was that he was able to eat ice cream and candy again. I had previously stopped letting him have those because I knew he would get extremely hyper after eating them.

I didn’t know what it was in them (maybe sugar I thought), but I knew not to let him have any. When we started Feingold, I found approved ice cream and candy, and he didn’t go off the wall. He would tell people all the things he avoided on the diet, but enthusiastically added, “But I can have sugar!” He was in heaven, and so was I.

Daddy’s Food

I cleared the shelves of most of the unapproved foods – at least those that were my son’s favorites. There was no way I was going to leave one of his favorite foods sitting on the shelf for him to drool over, knowing he could not have it. One thing you can do is leave one top shelf for “Daddy’s food” or fill in the blank. I explained to my son that people have different reactions or allergies to food. Some people can tolerate certain foods and other people cannot. I think it’s important for kids today especially. So many kids have allergies these days. Plus, I don’t want my kids to judge other people for the way they choose to eat. I want them to understand that God created us all different and he gave us free will to make choices for ourselves. I do tell them the truth though and when they get older I hope they will use good judgment in how they tell others about healthy eating. I don’t feel that God ever shames us or looks down on us, but instead is always loving and kind.  Jesus didn’t come into the world to condemn the world, but to save it. 

Other parents can easily feel condemned or judged for how they feed their kids and often get defensive when hearing about Feingold. That’s why I started my blog. Instead of pushing my views on others, if someone I know wants to learn more about the diet, they can read about it.
Some people like to say that they grew up eating all this food, and it hasn’t affected them. Well, not yet anyway, and not in any way that they are aware of. Now that my kids are older, I’ve had to answer the question, “If dyes are bad, how come (fill in the blank) eats them?” I just have to explain that they are bad, and some people just choose to eat them anyway because they may not know how bad they are for them, but we are going to eat healthy.

An Infraction

Shortly after starting the diet, a family member came home from the store with unapproved yogurt that had artificial flavors. This person wasn’t convinced of the diet. He decided to give the yogurt to my son.

Shortly after, we went out shopping to a kids clothing store. My son was running in and out of the clothing racks, spinning them around, running throughout the store, typical pre-Feingold behavior. He then started to climb up a ladder he found. We pulled him down and reprimanded him. He looked up and said, “See! You shouldn’t have let me have those artificial flavors!” I couldn’t help but laugh.

Did I put all of my kids on the diet?

At the time, I just had one other daughter, who was eighteen months. I did not see any reason why not to put her on the diet too. I didn’t want to make two different meals. She was not hyper at all but I knew that the chemicals were not good for her. I did not make an effort to keep her on stage one though. She ate a lot of stage two fruits. I couldn’t keep apple juice in the house though so I did switch her to pear juice and lemonade along with my son.

When she was about three, I started letting her have apple juice again. My son was well established on the diet and didn’t get upset if someone else was having something he could not. I did notice that my daughter started having big meltdowns around this time. I thought it was from starting school and having a new baby in the house. I didn’t link it to the apple juice till much later.

She was very young when we started the diet, and she had no signs of hyperactivity. I didn’t see Feingold as anything but a healthier way of eating for her. She was later diagnosed with autism and has some other digestive and immune issues. We’ve found that she really needs to avoid many stage one foods including apples and berries.

Some people decide only to put their target child (the child you are initially doing the diet for) on Feingold because of cost concerns. They don’t feel they can afford to buy Feingold-approved foods for the whole family, or they have older children and don’t feel that they would comply with the diet.  

It’s entirely up to you. Many families do for the most part eat Feingold-acceptable meals at home. Who wants to cook two separate meals? Other family members may decide to eat whatever they want when they are away from home. Keep in mind that this whole diet is a learning process for everyone. While other members of the family may not be on board in the beginning, they may come around later, so don’t give up hope.

Do I do the diet?

For the most part, yes, but I didn’t do it 100 percent at first. I must admit, I ate horribly growing up. I feasted on McDonald’s, pizza, doughnuts, and SpaghettiOs ® regularly. For some reason, I never gained weight. I was heavily involved in sports. I figured if I wasn’t fat, I was healthy. The only thing I knew about food was what I learned in school - the five food groups. I thought I was doing well because pizza and McDonald's contained all the five food groups. French fries (potatoes) were my vegetable of choice.

When my son started the diet, I was forced to change my eating habits. I did not want to eat unacceptable foods in front of him. Plus, if I was asking my son to make these changes and lecturing him on the dangers of dyes, I thought I should be a good example and do the diet with him.

I did, however, keep my stash of Nacho Doritos ® hidden in the pantry in the beginning, but I would never let him see me eat them. I’m not condemning anyone who does eat unapproved foods in front of their kids, but it wasn’t something I chose to do.

Today, I do eat off diet every once in a while when I go out to eat or to a party. If my kids are with me and I decide to have the dessert, I make sure to eat it when my kids are not looking. Otherwise, I’ll be asked, “Hey! Why do you get to eat that?” They’re used to eating whatever I’m eating.

My Own Detox

Feingold says to avoid fast food completely the first six weeks of the diet if you can. I avoided fast food as well by default because I didn’t want to hear the whining from the back while I was going through the drive through.

After not eating fast food for six weeks and following the diet most of the time at home, I decided to get McDonald’s for breakfast one day. The kids were not with me so I thought, “Hooray, McDonald’s!” I got pancakes and sausage. Soon after I got to work, I threw up. “I’m ruined!” I thought. What was going on? I had eaten McDonald’s many times before without a problem. I think this was detox. My body had just spent the last six weeks cleaning itself out from all the junk I had been eating my whole life. When I fed it McDonald’s, it did what it was supposed to do – expel the toxins and garbage.

By the way, if you haven’t seen the movie, “Super Size Me”, you have to rent it from the library. This guy ate McDonald’s every day for thirty days, at every meal. At first, he threw up from the food. Then, his body “adjusted”. Of course, it led to a rapid decline in his health. He talks about food additives and all the junk they put in our food. See my notes under the “List of Good Resources” section at the end of the book.

Anyways, I was eventually able to eat out again but I tried to stick to Feingold-approved fast food. When I got pregnant with my third child, I did the diet 100 percent and I noticed quite a difference in my second son’s behavior as a baby. He was much calmer than my older son, even though he was a boy! Imagine that. All boys weren’t so bad after all. I continued the diet while nursing.

It wasn’t until my fourth child that I really connected what I ate with my baby’s behavior. I never paid much attention with my other kids. With my oldest, I knew if I had caffeine he was not going to sleep well that night and forget McDonald’s. If I ate McDonald’s, I was going to need to put on a poncho because he spit up like crazy.

With my fourth, I noticed that if I ate dyes or artificials, she was very fussy, didn’t go down for her nap easily and would take a much shorter nap, waking up cranky. She was like this for about 36 hours. It was bad enough that I just stayed on the diet 100 percent. I did not want to deal with a fussy, sleepless baby for the next two days. It wasn’t worth it. She otherwise slept really well and was a happy baby. The way she reacted when I ate off diet was the exact same way my oldest son was as a baby. I was eating dyes and artificials every day back then. Now I know why he was such a difficult baby.

I also noticed that when I eat something with artificial color or flavors, I have nightmares or really bizarre dreams that night. It’s one of the ways I know when something has artificials in it or not. If I have a nightmare, I have to think about what I ate that day. Feingold members have reported the same thing with their kids.

Do husbands do the diet?

Some husbands do and some do not. Some will eat clean at home, and then eat off diet at work. Do I think husbands would get big, big points with their wives if they did do the diet with the rest of the family? Yes. I think as leaders of the home, they would be setting a good example for their kids. They would be showing their kids the importance of practicing what you preach. In following the diet they are also showing support for their child. They are letting them know that they are important and worth making changes for, even though it might be hard.

I think it also shows love and respect to the wives, who are the ones at home, cooking and doing all they can to keep their child fully on the diet. At the very least, Dads should not come and frown upon the new meals that their wives have made (It takes time to learn and try out new recipes). Dads, try to stay positive about the new changes and your kids will likely follow your example, and your wife will love you for it.

For me, it’s just part of following God’s commandment to love your neighbor as yourself. You certainly wouldn’t wave beer in front of an alcoholic whom you loved, who just gave up drinking. So, if your child has to give up a favorite food, I say don’t eat it right in front of them. Show them the same kind of love and respect that you would want to be shown.

I had a neighbor whose young kids had to start a gluten-and-dairy-free diet for serious health issues. She went out in the garage one afternoon to find her husband sitting eating his McDonald’s in the garage. She told him he probably didn’t need to do that (some kids are more sensitive than others). She thought it was really sweet of him to be so considerate of the kids though, and I did too!

How to deal with older kids on the diet

Many people starting the diet are doing so with younger kids, typically preschoolers. However, changes and improvements can be seen in anyone, at any age. If starting the diet with an older child, you may have some cooperation issues. It’s easier to get a four- year-old to change their diet than a fourteen-year old. However, it’s not impossible and it has been done.

For older kids, chemicals will affect them differently. They may not be hyper but they usually have trouble concentrating and focusing in school. They may also have trouble controlling their anger and emotions. Educate your child on why the diet would be beneficial. They are old enough to understand. Let them do their own research as well. Watch some of the documentaries together that are listed at the end of this book. 

If the child is on medication, explain that this is a possible alternative to the meds. There are some people who do both the Feingold Diet and medication, but many parents choose to wean their children off the medication after starting the diet because they see such great results.

Talk to your doctor first before stopping any medication. Some doctors do not support the Feingold Diet, but there are a growing number who do. If a change in diet does work, it may suggest that thousands of kids are unnecessarily prescribed ADHD medication every day.  
I don’t have any experience with ADHD medication but for me personally, I prefer to seek out natural treatments instead. Many medicines have unpleasant side effects, sending parents to seek alternative solutions. I have heard from several of those parents. Medications are not the cure all. With any medical issue, you really need to get to the root of the problem and find out what is causing the issues in the first place. For many kids, dyes and these other chemicals are the direct cause of their ADHD symptoms. It might be worth a try to remove the chemicals first before trying medications. 

Read previous chapters here:

Intro and Chapters 1 and 2

Look for my new e-book, "All Natural Mom's Guide to the Feingold Diet" coming August 11th, 2014 to Kindle!

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