While I was teaching, I had plenty of kids with ADHD or ADD go through my classroom. Some of them were on meds, and some were untreated or were on special diets. The special diet kids didn’t have the same level of focus as the ones on medication, but neither did they have the zoned out look of the kids on meds. I once asked a mom if a special diet actually worked for her child and she said that it had a lot of positive upsides and then she gave me a small speech about synthetic dyes and the benefits of a gluten free diet.

Studies I’ve read show that synthetic dyes don’t cause ADHD, but they can exacerbate the symptoms of ADHD. A lot of different foods can also make the symptoms of ADHD worse, but synthetic dyes can really mess some kids up. Synthetic dyes are found in:
•    Brightly colored cereal
•    Many different types of condiments
•    Jell-O mixes
•    Cake mixes
•    Some juices
•    Brightly colored candy
Food dyes are found nearly everywhere and the best way to combat them is to make your food from scratch and read food labels. Not every product has dyes in them. For example, while many barbeque sauces and ketchups contain Red #40, Hunts Original doesn’t.

Why Does Dye Make ADHD Symptoms Worse?
No one is sure why synthetic dyes make the symptoms of ADHD worse. The best thing you can do for your toddler is simply cut out as much dye as possible. In order to do this, make sure you read food labels and always buy or make products that are as natural as possible. This includes things like purchasing 100% fruit juice, making all your own baked goods, or abstaining from many colored candies like suckers and M&Ms. The main dyes you want to stay away from are:
•    Blue 1 and 2
•    Citrus Red 2
•    Green 3
•    Red 40

•    Yellow 5 and 6

How Early Does ADHD Present?
ADHD can present in children when they’re still toddlers. Unless you’re looking for the symptoms however, you may miss them. What you want to look for is motor skill issues like learning to walk late, or balance issues. Your toddler may also get frustrated more easily than other children and have a hard time using his words. All of these symptoms must be more pronounced than usual because it’s not unusual for toddlers to be a little unbalanced and you have to consider that they’re still mastering the art of language.

Kleist, M. K. (2012, February 27). Food dyes suspected of causing behavioral problems in kids. CBS Chicago.