Let me say up front that I am a chronic, die-hard label reader when it comes to food. It's a habit I began in the late Eighties(gasp!)when low-fat everything was THE way to eat and mayonnaise was the most disgusting thing on earth to me--I couldn't see the need to eat a spoonful of FAT on a sandwich. I have since come around. :-)
Add children to the mix. We had a few years of some pretty serious behavior issues with one of my kids--she knows who she is--where it was OBVIOUS that there wasn't a discipline problem so much as she simply seemed unable to control herself. It started around the age of seven. I did some reading and asking other moms, and came across some information about FOOD DYES.
(I won't get started here, really! BUT if you haven't checked it out, DO SO. You may be shocked at what you may be doing to your kids by feeding them neon green koolaid. I was.)
I started eliminating the dyes from her diet. We started with the obvious: red. That was easy enough. It's not quite as sneaky as others. Seeing a marked difference between her behavior ON super-colored sweets and OFF of them, I decided to pursue Yellow. OH BOY. This is where we hit pay dirt. After I had eliminated it from most of her diet(and the stuff is insidious; everything from Rice-a-Roni to "healthy" breakfast cereal contained Yellow 5&6), and then she would have LITTLE of it, BAM! We would be hit again with the tantrums and irrational behavior. NOT pretty. Scary, in fact.
That was six years ago. We have come a LONG way on our nutritional journey, but the lesson that keeps coming back to me is "read the label, all the way, every single time". Case in point:
Last year I decided that our next target food ingredient to eliminate for healthy eating would be high fructose corn syrup. I began to be more diligent. Learned how to make granola bars at home. Stopped buying some other snack foods, and realized the stuff is in EVERYTHING.
Remember the lesson:
READ THE LABEL.
READ THE LABEL.
Well, last week I was in a hurry in the grocery(summer grocery shopping with four kids has a whole different set of problems than winter shopping when other people's children are in school all day!). I was delighted to see the kids' favorite brand of pre-packaged granola bars sporting the label "NO High Fructose Corn Syrup". Honestly, it should have stopped me in my tracks, but I actually picked up the box, scanned about halfway down the label, and tossed the bars into my cart, murmuring something about "those will be handy to have on vacation."
Next scene, we arrive home and the granola bars sit on the counter a couple of days before I can begin puzzling over where to store them till we go on vacation. I happen to decide to REALLY look over the label and THIS is what I see:
WAYYYYY down at the almost-end of the list: sucralose.
My best friend calls it "poison". Seriously. Splenda has a caravan of health threats that travel with it. WHAT IS THIS STUFF DOING IN AN ESSENTIALLY KID'S FOOD????
I am furious. Frankly I would rather they be loaded with HFCS AND artificial colors than that stuff.
They are going BACK to Walmart. Quaker will be notified. This is senseless.
Moral of the story? Read the label. Every time. Food additives change so quickly it's nearly impossible to keep up. Another interesting and out-of-place ingredient I found in these granola bars was GLYCERIN. I am still not sure WHY this would be there. I intend to ask.
It is not possible to watch every single bite our kids eat, but I believe that being super diligent about what we regularly allow them to consume can help to bless them with positive eating skills and good health in the future. Garbage in equals garbage out at some point in their lives. The scary thing is that so many of the things going into foods now are fairly new to our food system. We simply don't know what the long-term effects may be.
So please read the labels. Let the companies know you don't appreciate CHEMICALS in your kids' food, NOR do you appreciate paying 30% more for a special label that claims "ORGANIC" or "ALL NATURAL". They CAN and WILL change if they hear from us enough. Good, nutritious, high-quality and non-threatening, truly NATURAL food should be readily affordable to everyone. Period.
Climbing off the soap box now.