It breaks my heart to see the kinds of things children eat – especially when I know what I do about the nutritional content of most of the choices they are provided with to eat.
I’m certainly not trying to criticize anyone when I say this, but it’s very apparent that many children are being done a disservice when they are fed meals and snacks. Children deserve real, whole foods as it is the foundation upon which their growth and development are constructed, and will dictate everything about their physical, mental, and spiritual worlds for the rest of their lives.
When I see children eating fast food and other items like Goldfish, Ritz Crackers with “peanut butter”, boxed cereals and other extruded grain products like pretzels, crackers, and bagels, processed pasteurized dairy products like Yoplait or Dannon Yogurt…even juices that read “100 percent juice” (which is no better than sugar water), quick-to-prepare meals like Chef-Boyaredee Beefaroni, frozen pizzas and chicken nuggets, hot dogs from industrial sources with nitrates, and fruit roll-ups, I become very concerned.
So what’s so unhealthy about these foods? The label may tell us that they are nutritious…so they must be, right? I believe people go on feeding unhealthy foods to their children not because they don’t care. Most parents care about their children and want the best for them. I just think they lack the knowledge about what exactly their children are eating. I really believe in my heart of hearts, if they knew what their kids were eating, they might make different decisions.
And, a few fundamental changes really can be made, without a huge expense. Check out this Food Stamp Challenge article, very inspiring!
So, I’ve decided to highlight three of these commonly-eaten foods and go through the ingredients to find out exactly why they are far from healthy to eat.
1. Chef-Boyaredee Beefaroni ingredients:
Tomatoes (Water, Tomato Puree), Water, Enriched Macaroni (Semolina, Niacin, Iron, Thiamine Mononitrate [Vitamin B1], Riboflavin [Vitamin B2] and Folic Acid), Beef, contains Less than 2% of : High Fructose Corn Syrup, Salt, Modified Corn Starch, Enzyme Modified Cheese [Pasteurized Milk, Cultured, Salt, Enzymes] Flavorings, Soybean Oil.
- All ingredients are from factory sources, including the meat. Meat comes from cattle who live in the worst conditions – are fed genetically-modified, unnatural feeds like grains, soy, corn, and silage from other toxic sources like orange peels heavily covered in pesticides. Cattle are not meant to consume grains, but grass. The consumption of grains causes an acidic environment in the digestive tract of the animal eating it, making a perfect environment for virulent bacteria like E. coli. Read this article about a girl who was sickened and probably permanently paralyzed for life because of eating an industrially-produced hamburger. The same cattle are administered hormones, steroids, and antibiotics.
- Pasta is from genetically-modified, processed grains that are not sprouted nor soaked, and the high phytic acid content from improperly prepared grains causes mal-absorption of nutrients in the body.
- Tomatoes used for the sauce are covered in pesticides and are from a conventional source – making the nutrient content of the tomatoes lower than an organic source.
- Cheese comes from factory-sourced milk – containing many of the same elements as the meat – from cows pumped full of hormones, antibiotics, steroids, and fed improper feed (genetically-modified grain, soy, and/or corn).
- This “food” has been stripped of all the natural nutrients that would be present in healthy food, from overprocessing (see bullet items above) and has been fortified to include synthetic vitamins and minerals – all of which are isolated elements which the body cannot absorb – with none of the necessary cofactors and enzymes present in real, organic food to make the food nutritious.
- High Fructose corn syrup, modified corn starch, and soybean oil. All genetically-modified, highly processed, and too high in Omega 6s (soybean oil – too much Omega 6s are an inflammatory-causing agent in the body). High fructose corn syrup is an artificial sweetener that causes an overproduction of insulin in the body.
- The label reads “good source of protein”, yet the ratio of carbohydrates to protein is unbalanced – 27 grams of carbs to 8 grams of protein. This is usually because the bulk of what you are getting in a container of Beefaroni is pasta, not meat.
- 700 miligrams of sodium – and it’s processed sodium with all the minerals removed. When you hear that sodium is bad for your health, it’s due to the overly high sodium content of processed foods. When you salt food at home, you don’t normally add this much to your home-cooked meals.
- “Flavorings” are an excitotoxin. On a basic level, these substances cause damage to neurotransmitters in the brain, among other health problems.
2. Yoplait yogurt ingredients:
Cultured Pasteurized Grade A Lowfat Fat Milk, Sugar, Strawberries, Modified Cornstarch, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Nonfat Milk, Kosher Gelatin, Citric Acid, Tricalcium Phosphate, Natural Flavor, Pectin, Colored With Carmine, Vitamin A Acetate, Vitamin D3.
- This is a highly processed “food” which contains mostly chemicals and sugar. Milk is from a factory source from cows pumped full of steroids, antibiotics, hormones, and fed genetically-modified feeds (grain, soy, corn). Milk is pasteurized, low-fat, and non-fat which renders nutrients in the milk denatured (damaged) and removes important enzymes and fat-soluble vitamins necessary for digestion.
- When this “food” is stripped of its few nutrients from processing, the synthetic ones are added back in. Again, these elements aren’t recognized by the body and are mostly unabsorbed.
- High fructose corn syrup and modified corn starch – see Chef Boyardee Ravioli above.
- “Natural flavorings” are an excitotoxin – see Chef Boyardee Ravioli above.
- Sugar – what can we say about sugar that is good? Nothing. Like other sweeteners, refined sugar is hard on the pancreas and causes insulin resistance, and eventually heart disease and diabetes. If fruit is one of the ingredients, why does this need sugar? And then it also contains high fructose corn syrup!
- Strawberries are from a conventional source, and strawberries on the conventional market are heavily treated with chemicals and pesticides. These substances are known to cause neurological, reproductive, and endocrine damage, and birth defects.
- Pectin – another ingredient that makes the excitotoxin list in Dr. Russell L. Blaylock’s book, Excitotoxins, The Taste that Kills
- Carmine – an insect-based additive used for coloring and pigment color that causes allergic reactions and even anaphylactic shock in some individuals.
3. Goldfish (Pepperidge Farm) ingredients:
Unbleached Wheat Flour, Flour, Niacin, Reduced Iron, Thiamin Mononitrate, Vitamin B1, Riboflavin,Vitamin B2, Folic Acid, Cheddar Cheese, Pasteurized Milk, Cheese Culture, Salt, Enzymes, Water, Salt, Vegetable Oils, Canola Oil, Sunflower Oil, Soybean Oil, Salt, Yeast, Sugar, Yeast Extract, Leavening, Baking Soda, Monocalcium Phosphate, Ammonium Bicarbonate, Spices, Annatto Color, Onion Powder.
- This product is one of the most unnatural you can buy! Where to begin – extruded, genetically-modified grains, all the worst oils (vegetable – canola, soy, sunflower, which have too high Omega 6 content) from genetically-modified sources – plus, even though the label might read “no trans-fats”, the very method used to process these industrial oils causes them to be a trans-fat! Pasteurized milk from factory sources (see other two items listed above), about a half a dozen synthetic nutrients, sugar, and other artificial ingredients and color. Oh, and ammonium bicarbonate – an industrial ingredient used widely in the rubber and manufacturing industries and as a fertilizer, it is cheap replacement for baking soda, which contains – you guessed it – ammonia.
Back to the drawing board. What can we feed our kids that is delicious and nutritious? Here are some ideas:
- Organic fruits and vegetables with homemade or organic salsas, almond butter, or plain, organic whole milk yogurt (made from raw milk is a plus!)
- Grass-fed meats or pasture-raised poultry, range-raised game meats, pasture-raised pork and lamb, and eggs from pasture-raised poultry – dark and organ meats are a very important source of nutrients as well
- Kids need real, whole fats and proteins – whole, raw dairy and meat with the skin and bones, lard from bacon, and tallow from beef. See our article about The Importance of Dietary Fats
- Organic, whole, sprouted and soaked grains – breads, hot cereals, home made granola, and home-made, healthy desserts
- Healthy oils – extra virgin, organic olive oil, coconut oil, palm oil, real butter
To read more about nutritional wellness for families and some snack ideas for children – read our article here.
As much as you can, eliminate the following from your kitchen (if the temptation is gone, it is much easier to make a transition effective):
- Boxed cereals, pop tarts, and frozen breakfast items
- Fruit roll-ups, “food bars,” packaged desserts, cookies, frozen desserts, and candies
- Processed breads, flour, and pastas
- Soy foods unless they are fermented like tempeh or miso soup
- Chips, crackers, pretzels, rice cakes, packaged popcorn
- Lunch meats and processed fake cheeses
- Low-fat, homogenized and pasteurized dairy products like yogurt, milk, cheese, cottage cheese
- Canned and boxed “meals” like Chef Boyardee or Kraft Macaroni and Cheese (as well as generics)
- Frozen fast foods like pizzas, chicken nuggets, taquitos, veggie burgers, and other soy products
- Soft drinks, juices, energy drinks, flavored waters, and other sugary beverages
Wondering how to make the transition? Here are some hints:
If all organic isn’t in your budget, buy it when you can and stop buying processed foods. Even conventional fruits, vegetables, meats, and dairy are somewhat better for your child than buying processed, packaged foods. Making everything from scratch doesn’t have to be difficult if you plan ahead, and it is so much healthier for your child. You’ll notice a difference right away if you make just a few basic changes.
Don’t assume your children won’t eat real food. If they have spent any amount of time eating a lot of processed foods from the SAD (Standard American Diet), realize the transition won’t occur overnight. My son was one of the most finicky eaters and it took some time when we converted from our SAD to traditional foods.
- Patience and persistence is the key. Just keep exposing your child to new, nutritious foods. Sooner or later they will start to develop a taste for healthy foods that you want them to eat. I’ve talked to many parents who say, “my child would never eat that.” But the fact is, they are not giving their children enough credit, and kids need time to change and adjust. Realize too, that you are the parent and are in control. If you make good food available to your child, and make it a fun, educational experience, he or she will start to become interested in eating healthy foods.
- Remember, if you continue to offer special or processed meals full of salt and sugar to your child when he or she is eating, you are training your child to be a picky eater that won’t eat wholesome foods.
Keep eating out at restaurants to a minimum. Have you ever wondered why restaurants have special kid’s menus? Children are accustomed to ordering salty, processed, deep fried items that are nutrient-depleted when they go out to eat. If you give your kids junk, pretty soon all they’ll be satisfied with eating…is junk.
- For the most part, restaurants are not known for using healthy ingredients. If you are in a restaurant with your children, an alternative to a kid’s menu selection would be to order an adult meal and split it with he or she, or if you have more than one child you can split an adult serving between two or more people.
- You can count on most restaurants to serve processed food. The more processed foods they eat, the more damaged their digestive tracts become. First a yeast overgrowth will take over their immune system. Then it will slowly start to invade their whole bodies. And this yeast needs to be fed. That’s where sugar cravings come in. Your kids are just giving in to the yeast that has taken over.
If your child has behavioral or mood issues, keep a journal of the foods they are currently eating for one week. Then make a switch the next week to a healthier diet. Keep track of the foods he or she has changed, and observe whether the behavior or mood issues start to improve.
- Many disorders such as ADD, ADHD, and irritability, fatigue, lack of focus, hyperactivity and even Autism are directly related to diet. If you are seeking answers to your child’s health disorders and suspect he or she might have some of these issues, check out the following video by Donna Gates and Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride and the GAPS diet philosophy.
- This same idea applies to children who have other health problems, too such as digestive disorders like IBS, gluten-sensitivity, celiac disease, acid reflux, headaches, frequent colds and flus, cold or canker sores, and much more. When children stick to a diet that eliminates processed, refined foods with sugar and eat a diet replete with whole, traditional foods, health problems are kept to a minimum.
My son used to get terrible canker sores fairly frequently when we were eating the SAD (Standard American Diet). I could always trace the occurrence of sores back to processed, sugary foods he had recently eaten. When he is eating healthy, he does not get canker sores, period!
I am also happy to report that in the past, by this time of year my son has come down with a stomach virus, cold/cough/sore throat combo or some other illness that keeps him down for at least several days with a high fever. So far this season, he’s been completely healthy!
Need even more ideas?
Resources for real food
Real Milk – where to find real, raw milk in your area
U.S. Wellness Meats – grass-fed meats (beef, pork, lamb), pasture-raised poultry, cheeses, organ meats, healthy fats like tallow, sustainable salmon, and much more
Pure Indian Foods – family owned business selling grass-fed ghee, coconut oils, and tea
Wilderness Family Naturals – real mayonnaise, coconut oil, kitchen supplies and more
Tropical Traditions – real, organic coconut oil, grass-fed meats/dairy, sustainable fish, kitchen supplies, and more
Cultures for Health – cultures for kefir, yogurt, buttermilk, cheesemaking items, kitchen devices, and more
This article is part of Cheeseslave’s Real Food Wednesdays Carnival. Please visit her site and read all the other real food articles linked there.