Sunday, August 19, 2012

Feingold Diet update part 1

Click here for Part 2

A long time ago when I used to blog, I told you the story of Ike, our rascal of a four year old, who had a severe speech delay, serious defiance issues, and had already been 'perhaps-this-isn't-the-best-environment'-ed at two preschools and then, after (gobs of ) Halloween (candy), had started getting in trouble at his third school.

I told y'all about how, after a Hawaiian Punch binge, we had a moment at Kinko's where seriously, I had to pray not to beat him. He was climbing the furniture. I was mortified and frustrated and at my wit's end. A few times in my parenting career I've had a this-is-how-child-abuse-happens moment; this was probably my biggest.

After the Kinkos Episode, the lightbulb went off that maybe it's the food. I recalled my friend Linsey mentioning something or other about food making her girls crazy with ADD, and how the Feingold Diet had changed their lives. I wasn't sure, I had my doubts plus it seemed too good to be true - but I ordered the materials and we went full on Feingold last December.

So, it's been eight months since we radically changed the way that we eat.

How's the Ikester, you ask?

The short answer:  Great. He's a different kid than he was before we started the Feingold Diet

The long answer: Don't get me wrong, the kid is still a pistol. He has not spouted a unicorn horn and started tooting all naturally colored rainbows. He's still mischievous, strong willed and, um, you know, a little spoiled. But the difference is now Ike responds to discipline.

And I think that was the clue for me that something was wrong with my kid. He was my fourth four year old. I used to get paid to teach four year olds. I have a degree in four year olds! But no discipline I tried worked with this kid, until I changed the way I fed him.

Now, at five and a half, eight months on the diet: his speech has increased dramatically (on target in vocab, still some problems with articulation.) He only tantrums if it's way past bedtime, like all my kids do. He colors in the lines instead of scribbling. He doesn't wet his pants. He makes cool things with Legos. He can play normally with other kids. He's pre-reading and writing on track. He is - hallelujah - ready for kindergarten. 

The other kids have not shown huge improvements, but Shep was having headaches almost daily, and those have turned into rarities. Both Walker and I suffer from migraines so all our kids are kinda toast but Feingold does help prevent migraines. I learned this the hard way when I was at the Created for Care conference and thought "Muhaha! No children around!" and indulged in Cheetos and Doritos for lunch. Within twenty minutes, I had a pounding headache. Hm, which petroleum product might have triggered that? Was it the yellow #5, the yellow #6, the red #40, or the mysterious "artificial flavoring"? Or perhaps the MSG? I don't know, but I refuse to be Frito Lay's science project any more.

Many of you were intrigued and had many questions about the diet, and I still get emails a couple of times a month. So let's get to some of them:

Q: Do you have to order the materials in order to do the Diet?

A: Yeah. Sorry. It is kind of expensive, but when you get desperate, it seems like quite the bargain. Now that we are on the flip side, I consider it the best $80 I ever spent. Feingold also has scholarships and is determined that every child who needs this program should have access to it, so if you need financial aid, email them at fausmem @

When I got the big package of materials in the mail, I realized how much blood sweat and tears went into producing them and I understood the price. They try and research the ingredients of every item in your grocery store, then keep up with the products when they change them. Would you do that job for $80? Pshaw. I wouldn't/couldn't/wouldn't know where to begin.

Feingold is not some wealthy doctor (Dr. Feingold died in 1982) nor corporate conglomerate; it is basically a bunch of moms who saw big changes in their own children and now want to help other moms, and getting the materials to us costs money.

Q: Can you do the Diet without ordering the materials?

A: In order for the program to work, you have to completely detox your child of un-natural foods and some natural foods that cause reactions in some kids, and then re-introduce some foods to see if you see a reaction. You can't detox without the list of approved foods.  You can try and wing it on your own, but you'll never be sure if you eliminated the problem food, which defeats the point, and y'all, seriously, we just don't have time for that. Go big or go home.

Plus when you buy the program you can email the Feingold people whenever you need hand-holding. Which you might need.

Q: Did you do the Diet with just your target child, or the whole family?

A: The whole family. For two reasons.

First, I couldn't handle having food in the house that Ike could not eat, but everyone else could. That just seemed mean. (We can do that a little bit now - I'll get to that later. But not at first.) And I didn't want to risk him finding it and eating it and ruining all my efforts.

Second, y'all, once you find out the crap that is in the food that makes your target child wacko, trust me, you won't want to buy it anymore. I get offended when I walk down the chip aisle at the grocery store. I see it as poison now. I fantasize about sticking Mr. Yuck stickers on every stupid bag.

Q: Is it expensive?

A: Yes and no. At first, I had to throw out or give away a lot of food, because I had a big ole pantry and four kids and Hello, my name is Missy and I'm a food hoarder. So that was painful. But then we had The Horrible Pickle Incident and his behavior backslid so dramatically that I just wanted that crap out out of my house. Now.

The good news is, organic and natural foods have gotten so much more ubiquitous and less expensive that it is doable. My Kroger (oh, I miss Kroger so much) had developed a fantastic selection. Plus I had been making small changes for years, ie skipping the dirty dozen, so a lot did not change, I just became more committed.

In the beginning, it will cost a little more. Be prepared for that. Just remember the adage pay the farmer now or the doctor later. Van's frozen waffles are a little more expensive than Eggos. But ADHD medicine is more expensive than Van's, as are doctor visits, therapy appointments, and the unknown problems our son may have had in the future had he not learned to control his impulses and submit to authority. I shudder to think. I'll pay a dollar more for the Van's, thankyouverymuch. Can you put a price on your child's health or your sanity?

My mindset has changed so much since we started this. If a processed food is really cheap, you know why that is? BECAUSE IT'S NOT FOOD. It's a bunch of chemicals that will never spoil. Real food spoils, and costs money. Chemicals are cheap. And poisonous to little bodies.

The hardest thing in the beginning for me was the bread. We can easily go through a loaf a day and Rudi's organic bread was the only Feingold approved bread that I had access to, at almost five dollars a loaf (insert retching noise.)  Now we have found a cheaper bread that says it has no preservatives or artificial junk and it does not seem to affect him. But in the beginning, you have to do the program 100%. But you can make your own, so dust off the breadmaker, my friend.

If you have a Trader Joe's nearby, you'll be just fine. Say a prayer for the majority of us Texans who don't. Sniff.

Remember, almost anything homemade is going to be fine. You'll be cooking more. You'll lose weight. It's all good.

Q: Can you eat out at restaurants on the Diet?

A: Not in the beginning. In the beginning, Walker and I did some take-out/Netflix dates after the kids were in bed. But we tried to keep them away from restaurants. This was impossible since it was Christmas and birthday season at our house when we started, but we limited it as much as possible.

Our beautiful discovery was that restaurant food does not seem to affect Ike, because hello, it's fresh and homemade. And in your Feingold materials you will get a Fast Food Restaurant Guide.

But in the beginning, no eating out for the first month or so. The money you would have spent on restaurants will go towards groceries. You'll lose weight. It's all good.

Q: from the blog: What do you do about school snacks? Parents provide snacks at his preschool so I wouldn't have control over what is being brought in. Do you just send something special with him?

Ike's school provided snacks too. I made the teachers aware that he was to have no food that wasn't from home and I sent him snack. He was fine with this because there are plenty of good snacks on the Diet. Ike would rather have his special bag of Natural Cheetos over boring ole animal crackers any day. Other approved snacks he liked were Saltines, Fritos, and Annie's cheddar bunnies. Yes, all of those are approved. It's not as hard as you're fearing, I promise.


More questions next time. Please feel free to leave any questions you have in the comments! And remember you can read our whole story at my other blog, Coal Mine Canaries.


  1. This is really interesting in all sorts of ways, and very encouraging. One tangential positive message I take out of it is that sometimes you can struggle very hard in one direction (in this case, the discipline direction), and then the solution can be something totally different--like changing diet. It reminds me that sometimes, if one style of solution just isn't working at all, maybe I need to think about the problem in a bigger way.

  2. This is fascinating stuff, Missy. Thanks for taking the time to explain it so well.

  3. I'm so glad you posted on this! i have a very dear friend with her own little boy who sounds VERY much like Ike. One day we were playing and he was going nuts, hitting all the other kids and just freaking out in general. it was sad. she was at her wits end and i had just read your blog when you first had started feingold and had an awakening of sorts. i asked what he'd eaten that day and just by noting what he'd consumed in the last hour we listed fruit loops, red squeeze-its, a cupcake from the grocery store and skittles. i directed her to your blog and at first she was excited but i think she was just overwhelmed at the idea of putting some of these ideas into practice. long story, sort of, short: his behavior hasn't improved at all since then, if anything, he's worse. he's so aggressive, tries to attack his mom, beats up his twin brother and hit three kids on the first day of kinder, struggles majorly with any type of communication with other kids and just shuts down when confronted about his behavior by any adult. i love my friend (and her kid!) dearly, how can i convince her to give this a try?! she's a teacher and is slowly convincing herself that he needs to be in special ed (he doesn't) and i really think trying this diet will help him, and if not, what's it going to hurt??

    1. Any update? I dunno. There's probably not much you can do, sadly.

  4. I was so excited to see this post. We have also had MAJOR success with treating our daughter's ADHD and Sensory Integration issues with diet. It seemed expensive at first, but now that we are in the swing of things my grocery budget is almost the same as before. Bread is not a major issue for us because she doesn't really like it.

    I would encourage any parent to diet before starting meds.

    Also, we are pretty much all on the same diet. I took a benadryl last month and it pretty much sent me to the moon. It is so frustrating how much dye they put in medications!

  5. Thanks for sharing your (and Ike's) story. Do pediatricians and GP doctors ever recommend diet change to parents? Or do they just write a script? At the junior level it is the latter for sure. I wonder how many of my junior high (ADHD) students would benefit from a diet change? Fascinating stuff.

    1. I have yet to find a pediatrician who acted even mildly interested in it, sadly. Doctors get almost no nutrition training in med school. Ironic, since we are made of food, huh?

  6. Great blog! Yes, the money spent to join the Feingold Association is really worth it. The materials (created by the moms you mentioned) are awesome and so helpful.

    The reason membership is encouraged is that reading labels just isn't enough. There's lots in products than what one sees on the label. You could do the diet without joining by using the Feingold Caveman Diet: but being a member is so much easier and there is more to being additive free than the great 300 page foodlists.

    Another good resource is the Yahoo group:

    BTW and a warning. Trader Joe products aren't all dye, etc. free. I've seen things with Red 40! What a shock that was.

  7. Oops! How did that happen???? The link to the Yahoo group is

  8. Thanks for this update. You had posted a question way back when and I had sent you some info at the time to PLEASE try the Feingold diet, it worked for me and my son in 1983. I completely understand the "almost a child abuser" comment! We actually got investigated by CPS because he had large bruises and the school reported us. They were self-inflicted during a huge temper tantrum when he was not getting his way. We explained the ADHD to the investigator and it all went away, thank God. After all the process of elimination and re-introducing of foods, MILK was the one and only food that would set him off. He is in his 40's now and still doesn't consume much milk (cheese on pizza, etc.). He knows when he does and will get a very anxious feeling, jitters and sometimes a headache.

  9. I have gone gluten free with my daughter who has Fetal Alcohol Effect and attachment issues. I am still wanting to try the Feingold diet as well. I think I just need to go for it. :-) You have encouraged me!

  10. Thank you for posting this reminder/update! I sprung for the program and dropped the big $ on the materials in June. I haven't done anything with it because when it arrived, it just seemed so darn overwhelming. Tonight my 8 year old whacked her brother for the umpteenth time and couldn't fall asleep for 1+ hours at bedtime (3rd night in a row). Then, exhausted, I came to your blog and saw this post. We've been "off" of Red #40 since Christmas 2011. Tomorrow I commit to reading and getting started with the whole program. Looks like August 21st is "Pantry Cleansing Day". Wish me the best and say a prayer for us. I don't think I can handle another "failed" solution at helping my daughter... Ann-marie

  11. My sister has done the Feingold Diet with great success with her kids, and I was looking at Feingold, but unsure, as we already ate a pretty clean diet. My middle child sounds like your Ike. He would throw two and three hour temper fits, but not like he got what he wanted or even knew what he wanted ten minutes into the fit. I swear his eyes were glazed over and he would start the head banging and I was desperate. Instead of Feingold, we cut out gluten. We had already cut out dyes, processed foods, etc, but cutting out gluten was the hands down best thing I could have done. It is worth every extra penny to have my sweet, if mischievous, boy back. And he recognizes that gluten makes him feel funny. And turns it down.

  12. Don't be dissin' on the $5 dollar bread... that's how much ours costs (gluten free) and it's like half the size of a normal loaf. Doh!
    Sadly even a bread machine isn't going to work real well for us. :(

    I read labels religiously now that all my children are gluten free and it just doesn't want to make me eat most of the processed foods. All my friends shudder when I come over because I have to ask what's in the food before we eat it. (I've mostly just taken to bringing my own, which is a pain, but at least I can control it) But yes, we are eating a whole lot healthier these days. Although I'm not so great at the dirty dozen at least we aren't eating as many processed foods. :)

  13. I have an almost four year old who went from reserved, calm and obedient (I KNOW!) to ridiculously over-energized, disobedient and un-self-controlled. So hard to know what is just normal four year old stuff (he's my first so I'm on a serious learning curve) and what may be caused by something else. I'm giving school a few weeks to see if he's just craving structure and authority before I bite the bullet on Feingold. It's not to the point of desperation yet, in terms of his behavior, but I definitely want more info on the chemicals and additives, from a nutritional standpoint.

    And FYI, I was just on the Trader Joe's website and Austin is on the list for one of the next stores opening! Hooray for you!

  14. What cereals do you feed them?

    1. Right now, we are happy with Chocolate granola and some organic peanut butter balls from Central Market. Anything organic works fine - the trick is finding brands that the kids actually like. They don't care for most of them.

      Oh, Whole Foods has their version of Golden Grahams that my kids are very happy with.

  15. Missy, thank you for writing these posts. I think we are going to try the Feingold diet. Did you find that it helped with his allergies?

    1. It is hard to say. His allergies had mostly gone away by the time that we tried it - they were milk related, I'm convinced, and he just outgrew it. But allergies in infancy are a sign that your kid is going to be more sensitive to food that other kids.

  16. I did the Feingold diet in 1987 with my son, Jonathan. Found allergies caused a lot of the nose problems. He developed fevers with some reactions like chocolate. The hyper part stayed. The schools at the time was not helpful--might still be that way. Orange juice caused him to fight. He has a three day effect. Eat, drink, or touch today and it will not show until 3 days later. Reworked diet in 1990. Found more issues. Still ADD at 27 years old.

  17. I was pointed here by a friend after a crying jag about my 5 year old boy. Ive known since he was 2 that something was off. We are smack in the middle of week 2 and im crying every night. I have searched the message boards to get a solid "detox can take 'this long' " but just read "stay on the program 6-8 weeks." Can you tell me how rough it was at first, for how long? My husband is saying he's tired of coming home to a strung out mom, eyes puffy from crying frustration tears. He is 10x worse and i just need to hear "keep going. it took us 4 weeks.." etc.

    1. Christina, I saw results pretty quickly, and about week 2 it got real ugly - but I was on the Feingold chat board that warned me that it would get bad before it got better, and that the peak of badness was a good sign! Within a month, he was a different kid. It did not take that long.

      I blogged about it in more detail here

      Are you on the Feingold yahoo group?

  18. I know this post is a couple of years old and you may not read this but I want to say Thank you! You said what I've been wondering. We are seeing subtle changes (and this is all very new so I know with a 10 year old it's not going to be overnight), but I was thinking that while the food will help, he still has 10 years of habits and shaping that he has to overcome as well. One change - he gets reports home from school every day - not a single one has been negative in January. Minor things (like reading in class) have been mentioned, and when I talked to him about it he responded more appropriately than in the past. I think we are seeing good things, but it's not the overnight success of some stories. You mentioning that he's still a pistol but it's different is great encouragement to me! :) And your comment on "I have a degree in 4 year olds" Well, I have a degree in ADHD (Spec Ed) so how did it take me 10 years to realize he actually has it?!?



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