The fact that you are reading this blog indicates that you are probably a health oriented parent. You are the kind of parent who would not want to buy their kid too much bad food. Unfortunately food manufacturers make high profits on highly processed junk; and don’t seem to mind if our children eat foods scientifically proven to harm them. These manufacturers have come up with some crafty ways to get as much junk as possible into your kitchen cabinets.
The labeling on foods in the USA is ridiculous. Most parents are pressed for time and money and I suspect the labeling on foods is designed to confuse them in some cases. The challenge is to cut through the barrage of confusing advertising and marketing, and find healthy foods for kids without breaking the bank.
Nearly all the food advertising targeted at kids pushes unhealthy “foods.” This marketing is infuriating, but easy to spot: cartoon characters associated with cereals made mostly of sugar, “happy” fast food meals with toys included and in a new ploy, interactive video games to advertise processed snack “food.” The marketing of foods at adults is far more insidious. Companies are playing some pretty dishonest games with our minds. But you don’t have to be a biochemist to figure out how to feed kids well, you only need some information.
The tricks marketers are playing often involve word games. “Natural” and “all natural” are pretty meaningless term on products. No one regulates the use of these words so they can be put on just about any product including those that are genetically modified, highly processed, full of hormones, and/or pesticides. On the other hand there are plenty of foods that are truly 100% natural, like lard, but it does not mean they are healthy. Similarly the words “diet”, “light” and “no added sugar” are thrown on the packaging of some incredibly unhealthy foods. While marketers love the words like natural and light, they seem to have a bad relationship with the word sugar. Regulations require manufacturers to list ingredients proportionally to the amount in food. The first ingredient on a list should be the most plentiful, and no thinking parent is going to feed their kids tons of food made mostly of sugar. But if you look at the ingredient list in a product like granola, you can see how manufacturers work around the marketing problem that would be created if they had to put sugar high on the list. It is not unusual for products like granola to lists 6 or more different sugars separately. Here is a list of only some of the sweeteners that are essentially sugar found in packaged foods: Agave Nectar, Barley Malt Syrup, Beet Sugar, Brown Rice Syrup, Brown Sugar, Cane Crystals ,cane juice crystals, Cane Sugar, Coconut sugar, Corn sweetener, Corn syrup, corn syrup solids, Dehydrated Cane Juice, Dextrin, Dextrose, Evaporated Cane Juice, Fructose, Glucose, High-fructose corn syrup, Honey, Invert sugar, Lactose, Maltodextrin, Malt syrup, Maltose, Maple syrup, Molasses, Palm Sugar, Raw sugar, Rice Syrup, Saccharose, Sorghum, sorghum syrup, Sucrose, Turbinado Sugar and Xylose. No one but a food scientist could keep track of all the ways companies sneak sugar into processed foods. If you need a quick rule of thumb to save the time it would take to read the labels on convenience items like chips and bars, there is a simple rule that will help you avoid all highly processed bad for you junk. Simple do not buy anything in a small package. If you need to give your kids food on the run then resort to foods like grapefruit, bananas, and oranges. These foods have been conveniently packaged by nature.
I have fond memories of my mother always picking me up with a rinsed apple or orange in a bag for me. Such gestures let your kids know you really care about them and their health. Giving your kids healthy food is about more than just health; good food is love.
If you would like additional chapters in this blog series on how to feed kids well write so in the comments.