From the moment I first became pregnant, I carefully chose my foods, knowing that each bite would fuel my growing baby. I didn’t want to start my baby’s life on processed and empty calorie foods. I truly believed that I was building a foundation for growth. When my children were born, I continued feeding carefully. I introduced my babies to organic, whole foods. I stayed away from sugars and chemicals. My children have grown up enjoying these foods and have never known anything different. My goal was to raise them on the healthiest foods I could while I still had some control over their diet. When they don’t know any different, I figure why not give them only nutritious power foods? I don’t want my kids to feel deprived. When they go to a party, they eat cake like everyone else. But truth be told, my twelve year old has still never been to McDonald’s. Our children are the first generation to ever be told that they will have a lesser life expectancy than their parents. Childhood obesity and diabetes have reached epidemic proportion. Cancers and disease are increasing with more research indicating correlation to foods. Knowing this, how can we not feed our children good foods?
As my kids have gotten older, they are exposed to tons of foods that make me cringe. The providers at school or at play dates mean no harm. They probably think these foods are ok. Here’s why they are not.
Hydrogenated Oils / Transfats – These are artificially manufactured fats. There is nothing wrong with fat. In fact it is essential to health. However, transfats will damage cell membranes, block essential fatty acids (good fats) and promote disease. You will see hydrogenated oils in almost all packaged food. Manufacturers love it as it gives good taste and a long shelf life. If it says transfats or hydrogenated, don’t eat it.
Fried Foods – Fried foods such as potato chips, corn chips and French fries put damaged fats in your children’s body. The extreme heat damages the fat and causes free radicals to release in the body. This can cause cell damage and disease. These kinds of fried foods can also release carcinogens in the body.
High Fructose Corn Syrup – Check almost any sweet processed food and you will find high fructose corn syrup. It is made by changing sugar in cornstarch to fructose. Why use it? It is cheaper and has a longer shelf life than regular sugar. Research is unclear but high fructose corn syrup has been associated with obesity, diabetes and high cholesterol. Even if unproven, it is clear that this sweetener is high in empty calories that provide no nutritional value for your growing child.
Fruit Juices – I’m sure by now that you’ve heard your pediatrician’s recommendation of no more than 2 6-oz servings of juice per day. The reality is that fruit juice is little more than sugar juice for your kids. It will fill up their tummy, making them less likely to eat a quality food later. Did you know that even 100% fruit juice may have more calories than a soda? Just be careful how much you offer and do make sure that it’s 100% juice. You may be surprised to find an ingredient list full of things that you can’t pronounce.
Yogurt Drinks & Squeezable Yogurts – This seems to be a favorite handout at playdates. My kids love them. However, these may be filled with more sugar than a candy bar. Most have high fructose corn syrup. Yes, there are lot’s of health benefits to yogurt but these sweetened concoctions are probably not your best choice. Read your labels first.
Cracker Attack – Goldfish, pretzels, crackers – the list goes on. These snacks are finger favorites of toddlers and are seemingly innocent. Here’s the challenge. They are not whole grain. Whole grain foods will provide more fiber and nutrition. They are usually loaded with hydrogenated oils, sugar, salt and chemicals. Basically, they fill your child’s belly up and offer little or no nutritional benefit.
I know that all parents want health for their children. What may seem like innocent treats will undoubtedly create an increased appetite for fats, sugars and processed foods. Before you know it, you are at the mercy of your child’s pester power. The good news is that there are more healthy choices out there than ever. Check out brands such as Good Bag 4 Kids, Plum Organics, Organic Valley, Stoneyfield and Clif Kid to name a few. Feel good about what you’re feeding your kids. Help yourself and other parents by offering healthy alternatives.