Red Gatorade, Blue Jello, Purple Yogurt. What the __?

What is the consumer packaged goods industry doing to our children?  Better yet, do parents know what makes that yogurt neon purple, the Gatorade fire engine red, or the Jello bright blue? Do you know what is in your child’s junk, er, I mean snack food? I’m not even sure they should qualify as a food item.  Junk food is an oxymoron; junk is not a food.  Our bodies don’t require red dye #40 to function properly. Nor does it need high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) for energy.

What ever happened to giving our children water when they are thirsty?  Kids on the soccer field are panting, drenched in sweat, thirsty and refueling their bodies with Gatorade that contains red dye #40, blue #1, or yellow #5.  Not to mention the HFCS, citric acid (aka MSG), and artificial flavors.  I’ve heard it before,  “my kid won’t drink water”.  Well, it is boring and unflavored. But does everything a child consumes need to have a color and flavor added?

My kids, given the choice, would choose a sugary drink like Capri Sun or a juice box over water (most of the time) when they want a drink.  But when they open the refrigerator door at home, their only option is water. Juice is there, in a jug. But my seven-year-old said juice is only for breakfast. Today, he chose to drink water over juice with his eggs at breakfast. Sounds strange, I know. But our children don’t always make the right, healthy choice for themselves. So it is up to us parents to help them.

And it’s increasingly hard to do that with all the unhealthy, popular options the consumer packaged food industry provides.  So what is a parent to do? Well first off, try to shop alone, without your kids who have been bombarded with t.v. commercials touting the latest and greatest snack food. Here’s what I have done, and it works for us in our home.

  1. Thirsty? Only bring water in BPA free bottles. Kids will drink it, if they are thirsty enough. And once they get used to it, their thirst will only be quenched by water. Their body will crave it.
  2. Soda? Not in our house. Our “special treat” drink for my eleven-year-old is the Virgil’s Root Beer sold at Trader Joe’s. It uses natural spices and cane sugar. Another option is Izze Sparkling Juice drinks. They contain no refined sugars, caffeine, preservatives, artificial colors or flavors.  These drinks are only bought as a special treat, once in a while. Not stocked in our fridge on a regular basis.
  3. Pop tarts? For those of you not on a GF/CF diet, and your kids can’t live without a Kellogg’s Pop Tart, try Nature’s Path Organic Toaster Pastries sold at Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s and your local grocer.  Free of artificial colors and flavors!
  4. Snack chips? Well, no Doritos or Cheetos at our house. Too much MSG, artificial colors, flavors and preservatives.  We buy Lay’s Potato chips. Plain, no added flavor (or colors).  Trader Joe’s sells an alternative to Cheetos, called Cheese Puffs (not gf/cf).  Sun Chips (also not gf/cf) original flavor are the only ones without artificial colors, flavors, preservatives and MSG.
  5. Yogurt? Please read the ingredient listing on any yogurt you buy in the grocery store. You’ll find numerous colors, artificial flavors and tons of (hidden) MSG. The worse offender is Trix yogurt with the artificial colors and flavors, but Dannon’s Danimals have a lot of hidden MSG.  Better options are available at Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods.
  6. Chocolate syrup?  Well, Hershey’s is made from high fructose corn syrup and has artificial flavor and preservatives. Nesquik Chocolate syrup has HFCS, artificial flavors, preservatives and colors. Trader Joe’s sells Midnight Moo that doesn’t contain HFCS or artificial ingredients. Whole Foods sells one that is gf/cf.  Better yet, make your own with your own natural ingredients.
  7. Ketchup? Heinz contains HFCS and natural flavoring (where MSG hides).  We use Trader Joe’s Organic Ketchup.
  8. Fruit Roll Ups?  Try Stretch Island Fruit Co. fruit leathers, Florida Natural’s Fruit Juice Strings/Nuggets or Clif Kid Twisted Fruit Ropes.
  9. Breakfast Cereal?  There are so many unhealthy brands in the grocery store. They are chock full of sugar, artificial colors, flavor and preservatives and hidden MSG. Our alternatives are Kellogg’s Crispix, EnviroKids Gorilla Munch (found at Trader Joe’s/Whole Foods) and Trader Joe’s Honey Nut O’s.
  10. Cookies?  Bake my own with natural ingredients. We also will purchase Trader Joe’s All Natural Joe Joe’s. Just like Oreos, but without the artificial ingredients and HFCS.

I know it may be less expensive, convenient and popular to buy the packaged foods available in our local grocery store. But what are you sacrificing to save that money, time and whining from your kids?  Our children need us to play food cop and teach them the right choices so they can avoid obesity, diabetes, cancer and unnecessary hyperactivity. Ideally they are eating fresh fruits and vegetables, and good sources of protein. Right now, I’d settle to just see our generation of children eat better packaged food choices. And less of them.


Related blogs:

http://healingautismandadhd.wordpress.com/2010/02/12/artificial-food-coloring-is-evil/

http://healingautismandadhd.wordpress.com/2010/02/17/just-say-no-to-high-fructose-corn-syrup/

http://healingautismandadhd.wordpress.com/2010/03/04/get-extra-msg/

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3 Responses

  1. Couldn’t agree more!

  2. Good post and I agree whole-heartedly. It is much less of a battle if the junk food isn’t around in the first place. My six year-old thinks it’s normal to drink water all day as he really doesn’t know anything else. He has digestive issues so he limits his water during meals (to keep from diluting the HCl), but then sips on a water jug through out the day between meals.

    An interesting side issue is how the schools try and supply our kids with junk food. At the pre-school and kindergarten level, it seems they are constantly having some sort of celebration where they want to give the kids a treat. Buying for 25 kids isn’t cheap, so it’s usually the cheapest garbage available (this despite the fact we live in a relatively affluent California district). Not only is it loaded with flavorings and dyes, often it’s made in China, so who knows what other stuff has dumped in it that isn’t on the label.

    We dealt with this by giving them a note from our DAN requiring GFCF. We had it written into his IEP that he only gets food we supply. We also made it clear that we would hold them responsible for an infraction if they gave him food. The school and his teacher have been great, they let us know ahead of time when some sort of party is planned, and we supply a suitable alternative for our son.

    I know it will get tougher as he gets older. He has made so much progress; he won’t have an IEP much longer. That’s a good thing of course, but it is nice to have that club to enforce dietary restrictions.

  3. Just saw a study on bottled water and endocrine disrupters:

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19274472

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