My Family’s Foray Into Feingold
I first heard about the Feingold Diet when I was sharing with a dear friend of mine how frustrated I was with my four year old daughter’s behaviour. My wonderfully funny, sweet girl had become increasingly full of temper tantrums and it was hard to enjoy spending time with her. Being a homeschool mom, that made for difficult days, because there were not a lot of breaks from her behavior. As I shared these things with my friend, she encouraged me to speak to another mutual friend about an eating program that her family was doing that had yielded fantastic results, particularly for one of her three sons.
Frankly, I was very doubtful that this could be of much use, if any, to me (sorry, Marsha!). We don’t give her a lot of processed foods, many things I make from scratch and she doesn’t eat many sweets. I really didn’t think that there were food issues but I was miserable. Dealing with the moods, temper tantrums and distractibility was driving me nuts. My friend patiently reiterated her advice to talk with our friend, so reluctantly, I reached out to her. She didn’t have a ton of time so she told me to read her story on the website. I did. It sounded so much like some of the things I was experiencing that I downloaded the free book from the website. The more I read, the more I saw my daughter in the stories and descriptions. By the time my husband came home that night I’d read almost the whole book.
I told him about it and he agreed that it sounded a lot like what we were seeing. The program was a stretch for us financially but I was determined to try it. I felt like I was losing some of the best times of her life to her tantrums and my tears.
We haven’t done it perfectly and it’s been hard – breathtakingly hard sometimes – but it has been worth it. We have to watch every little thing. The things she loves the most – grapes, ALL berries, and tomatoes are some of the things she cannot have. Cucumbers are off the list. She loves cucumbers. SO many fruits and veggies, the things we think of as being healthy, are not so much for her. We have to substitute simple things like ketchup, which I use as part of my ground beef sauce when I make spaghetti. Grocery trips take forever. We have to check the brands of everything. Is it on the list of things we can use? No? We have to find one that is. And that could mean a trip to Whole Foods or Wegman’s, a minimum of 45 minutes away.
BUT the bigger question: is it worth it? It has been. The behavior is better and we saw changes in that and in her ability to pay attention to us in the first two weeks or so.
So what is the diet/program? The Feingold Diet is a way of eating that removes harmful food additives and preservatives, and even certain fruits and vegetables for a time. It is an elimination diet and the idea is to clear the body of the additives and naturally-occurring substances called salicylates which can cause issues for some children. The additives and preservatives are removed from the diet forever. Once you’ve been through 3-6 months of Stage 1, you move into Stage 2. In Stage 2, fruits and veggies are reintroduced one at a time to see which (if any) the child can now tolerate without reacting.
It isn’t an easy way to eat if you are used to a lot of popular brand products or to eating out. If you are noticing issues with attention, or mood swings, it won’t hurt to check it out here. Be sure to check out the Blue Book at www.feingold.org.
About the Author
Suzanne is a 14-year homeschooling veteran, whose older daughter was accepted into every university she applied to. She is passionate about supporting moms through every stage of homeschooling, and also works with them to find ways of generating an income while they homeschool.
Thank you so much for sharing your story with your daughter. How long did it take before the diet started having a positive effect on her? And does this diet only work for young children? Thanks again.
You are so welcome! 🙂
We started seeing results within the first two weeks. The younger the child, the more quickly it seems they will respond. It has been used by older children, though, and from what I have heard, when the kids start feeling better, they start making the association between the food and their responses/behaviour. My daughter recognized that she was hardly ever in trouble anymore, and she was almost never in timeout, which was huge for us. After that, she quickly got on board with it. Today we bought organic grapes, and I think she was almost in tears when she saw them, so hopefully she will tolerate them well.
Oh the joy of a 4 year old child! lol. I have to say that I have never heard of the Feingold diet but I will check it out. Many studies have taken place on food and nutrition and mood and behavior. Just take all the studies about ADHD and sugar. From your description is almost seems like a diet one would try to find out what one is allergic to. You know when you take out a lot and slowly reintroduce products one at a time to see if the body tolerates them. Am I understanding this right?
Yes, you are definitely understanding it correctly. It is an elimination diet, so you take out all the food colorings and preservatives and also foods that have salicylates. Big ones are grapes, apples, tomatoes and berries. You do that for 3-6 months, maybe longer, until you have hit “baseline”. This is where your child has “detoxed” if you will, and then once he/she has stabilized for a while, you start reintroducing one item at a time, as you described. We introduce one fruit or vegetable per week. So far she has tolerated strawberries and apples pretty well. The Blue Book on the Feingold site talks about this in more detail.