Parents may want to look beyond the bright packaging and cartoon characters on food packaging to keep their children on the healthy track, according to experts.
Meredith Magee of West Hartford said she noticed an effect from dyes when her son Quinn was just 10 months old.
"When artificial food dyes are put into his body, he will be up for all hours of the night," she said.
Magee said she told everyone that 5-year-old Quinn cannot have things with food dyes. She said she treated it like a food allergy.
"Birthday parties are tricky," she said. "I'm the parent who's scraping icing off the food."
Quinn and his twin sisters Charlotte and Luca were healthy snackers. She made sure they stuck to fruits, vegetables and nuts.
Magee said she really believed the food dyes changed her children's behavior. She's not the only one, either.
"Studies have shown that when you take chemicals out of food including artificial sweeteners, in kids who are behaviorally challenged, they tend to do much better," said Dr. David Katz of Yale University.
Katz said he had big concerns about dyes and artificial flavors that are in foods marketed to children.
"If you feed highly processed junk to your kid, you are conducting an experiment on your child and hoping it will turn out OK," he said.
Katz also said he had concerns about the foods with a long list of ingredients.
"These are chemicals," Katz explained. "They are not nutrients we are supposed to be eating. We really don't know exactly what they are."
Magee said she stays away from that. Many of those foods are wrapped in colorful boxes and bags.
She instead fed her children what she and her husband ate. She said she agreed with Katz. Just because special foods were for kids did not mean they were healthy. Chemicals could also be in freshly cooked foods.
Some are carcinogenic, meaning they could cause cancer.
Doctors said acrylamide was a chemical compound that can't be seen on an ingredient list. It's actually created when foods are cooked or baked at high temperatures like French fries, burned toast and some store-bought cookies and crackers.
They said foods like hamburgers and grilled cheese that are charred or blackened gave off nitrates, which were also carcinogens.
Magee said keeping it simple seemed to keep everybody in her house happy and healthy.
"We stick with fruits and nuts and vegetables, and if stay organic, we can trust what we're eating," she said.
Copyright 2014 WFSB (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.