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:

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

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

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

Just say NO! to High-Fructose Corn Syrup

My son’s elementary school promotes the anti-drug campaign Just Say No To Drugs! each year. It’s a wonderful awareness campaign. I really wish they could include high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) in that campaign. Does that mean I am comparing HFCS to drugs?  No. But I believe it’s something our kids should be taught to avoid, for their long-term health.  I know, for those of you out there that feel some HFCS won’t hurt and tell me, besides “my kids don’t drink sodas”, well, I may have some news for you. HFCS is in almost everything on the grocery store shelf that requires a sweetener. Why? Because it’s a much cheaper ingredient than sugar in the manufacturing process and it extends shelf life. Cheaper ingredients, extended shelf life means less cost to the consumer. Less cost equates to a  higher volume of products that will fly off  the shelf and into America’s stomach. Ugh!

In case you’re not familiar with what exactly HFCS is, I’ll give you the less technical, modified version of the manufacturing process. First off, it’s an artificial sweetener. Granted, it’s a byproduct of corn (which isn’t artificial) but it is processed in such a way that it becomes artificial. Corn kernels are soaked in warm water containing sulfur dioxide. This warm solution hydrates the kernels and makes it easier to separate its starch, hull, protein and oil components. After soaking, the kernels are wet milled to remove the oil containing germ. In this process, the wet starch is mixed with a weak solution of hydrochloric acid and is heated under pressure. The hydrochloric acid and heat break down the starch molecules and convert them into a sugar.  Next, the remaining corn starch is washed, and three types of enzymes are added to the resulting mixture. The resulting syrup is then place through an evaporation process to create the desired consistency for shipping. Sound natural to you?

Me neither. But the Corn Refiners Association put a lot of effort and money into “debunking” myths surrounding HFCS. One of them being that it’s the leading cause for America’s obesity epidemic. I’m not blaming obesity on HFCS, but it is in most processed foods that America eats.  When HFCS is ingested, it travels straight to the liver which turns the sugary liquid into fat, and unlike other carbohydrates HFCS does not cause the pancreas to produce insulin; which acts as a hunger quenching signal to the brain.  It makes sense to me that eating food that gets immediately stored as fat and never feeling full might lead one to obesity.

Because HFCS extends the shelf life of foods, and farm subsidies make it cheaper than sugar, it’s added to a staggering range of items, including sodas, yogurt, cereals, crackers, ketchup and bread — and in most foods marketed to children. So, unless you’re making a concerted effort to avoid it, it’s pretty difficult to consume high-fructose corn syrup in moderation.  Try buying a loaf of bread at your local super market chain that does not contain HFCS. I nearly went blind reading all those tiny labels trying to find one. I gave up and purchase my HFCS free bread at Trader Joe’s.

A pilot study reported that some HFCS manufactured in the U.S. in 2005 contained trace amounts of mercury. The mercury appeared to come from sodium hydroxide and hydrochloric acid, two chemicals used in the manufacture of high-fructose corn syrup. The Washington Post wrote an article on January 28, 2009 that stated “Almost half of tested samples of commercial high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) contained mercury, which was also found in nearly a third of 55 popular brand-name food and beverage products where HFCS is the first or second-highest labeled ingredient, according to two new U.S. studies. The chemical was found most commonly in HFCS-containing dairy products, dressings and condiments.”  Now I don’t think I need to point out that ingesting mercury, a neurotoxin, is bad for your health. For the complete Washington Post article, click on the link:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/01/26/AR2009012601831.html

The good news is, I think the tide is turning. Public outcry and perhaps a few lawsuits thrown at food/drink manufacturers (Kraft was sued in 2007 for claiming Capri Sun was “all natural” even though it contained HFCS) has prompted some companies to switch from HFCS to sugar in their sodas/drinks.  Soft drinks groups, HFCS’s core consumers, are “preferring to switch to sugar given the poor health image of high-fructose corn syrup,”  Credit Suisse’s report stated on January 7, 2010 (http://www.agrimoney.com/news/corn-groups-hit-as-drinks-makers-return-to-sugar–1183.html). Snapple, Ocean Spray and Capri Sun had switched some months ago, with Gatorade in November saying it would replace corn syrup with sugar. That’s huge! Mainly because corn syrup was selling for about half the price of spot sugar.

My hope is that more people read ingredient labels so they are aware of the types of additives they are consuming.  Next time you pick up something at the grocery store, spend a minute reading the ingredient list and ignore the marketing on the front of the package. My family just says NO! to HFCS and perhaps more families out there will join us. And live long, healthy lives.

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