A NEW perspective on food has changed the lives of one Gunnedah family for the better.
The McInnes family, mum Carla, dad Graham, seven-year-old Matthew and four-year-old Ava have introduced an additive and preservative-free diet into their household.
Carla said the family’s food journey began when Matthew was just two, his preschool, Mary Ranken Child Care Centre, noticed certain changes in his behaviour.
“I had just put his behaviour down to normal two-year-old behaviour – the terrible twos,” Carla said.
“The preschool, after receiving information from additive campaigner and researcher Sue Dengate, suggested to trial him on an additive and preservative free diet after they noticed some days he was his normal and happy self and other days he behaved completely differently.”
Since eliminating additives and preservatives from Matthew’s diet, the McInnes family and his preschool noticed significant changes in his behaviour.
“He became more relaxed, he is sick less and home life and his behaviour are a lot smoother,” Carla said.
“He is now in primary school and the teachers are able to tell if he has eaten something he shouldn’t as his attention is affected.
“Usually if children eat something they shouldn’t, if it’s an artificial colour for example, they can react quite quickly and become hyperactive, but if it’s a preservative it can take longer to see the effects.
“In Matthew, he gets pains in the legs, has trouble sleeping and can become more aggressive and argumentative.”
Carla, who is currently studying nutrition, thought like most parents her child’s lunchbox was “relatively healthy”.
“I had thought he was eating quite okay, it wasn’t like we were sending lollies and packets of chips to preschool with him,” Carla said.
“It was things like yoghurts and sauces, as well as cereals and breads that we didn’t realise were doing the damage.
“If other parents aren’t sure, fresh is best – whole foods,” she said.
“It is just as quick to put a piece of fruit in a lunchbox over an LCM bar.”
Carla said parents need to become educated on what they are feeding their children.
“When a child eats something with artificial additives, preservatives or flavourings, their body has to treat it like any other chemical.
“They have to detoxify it as it isn’t recognised as a normal food, which places an extra load on their livers to remove the chemical from their system.
“Most people don’t know until they hear about it, they don’t consider what is in foods because so many things are marketed as healthy choices, especially things like yoghurt.
“If I sat a bag of chemicals in front of a parent and said would you feed this to your child, 100 per cent wouldn’t.
“But a general rule of thumb is if you can’t pronounce something on the label, put it back on the shelf, producers are becoming more creative in what they call things, but if you take the time to read the labels it makes all the difference.
“When we first started there wasn’t a lot of variety but now the supermarkets have a lot more brands of foods available that are labeled additive and preservative free.”
A typical lunchbox for Matthew now consists of things like hard-boiled eggs, corn on the cob, cauliflower fritters, leftovers from dinner, fruit, carrot sticks and homemade muffins and quiches.
“I understand not every parent has the time to make things at home, but if you just add a bit extra in at dinner time, serving leftovers in your child’s lunchbox is better than packaged foods,” Carla said.
Carla said the family hasn’t looked back since making the lifestyle decision five years ago to change their eating habits.
“The whole family is feeling healthier because of it,” Carla said.
“Matthew’s reactions to food are more pronounced than some, but we have noticed changes within our whole family.”
Carla has spoken out about her experiences with nutrition ahead of Mary Ranken hosting leading additive campaigner and researcher Sue Dengate for a discussion on foods and children’s behaviour.
The presentation will be held on Thursday, August 20 from 6.30-8.30pm in the auditorium at the Gunnedah Services and Bowling Club.
Tickets are available at Gunnedah Fashion Fabrics or Mary Ranken Child Care Centre for $15.
For more information phone Cherie on 6740 2295 or 0413 672 345 or email