When you think back to your favorite meals of all times, what comes to mind? I want you to think of those meals that made your mouth water and your heart warm? I think about my grandmother’s homemade bread, mom’s famous apple pie, dad’s fresh squeezed lime juice with bitters and my aunt’s homemade chicken soup. I also think about our family’s holiday feasts. Each dish would be prepared by one of my relatives. Each dish was special and highly anticipated, by all of us, year after year. Not all of these meals were healthy, in the technical sense, but what they all had in common was that they were made from scratch and they were made with love. Whether it is the holidays, or just a wonderful meal with your family, I think that we can all appreciate the difference that care and effort can bring to any dinner table.
I would like you now to think about the food that your child eats the majority of the time. What are your child’s favorite foods? What are the go to meals and snacks that they turn to day in and day out? Do crackers, chips and bagels come to mind? Juices, fruit snacks, breakfast cereals and yogurt are usually popular choices. Who makes these foods? I know you serve them. You place them lovingly in your child’s lunch bag, or you pour them into a cup or on a plate; but, who makes them? You should notice two things. First, you will notice that these daily staples, are all processed. Second, you will notice that these foods are made by food manufacturers. I don’t think that anyone would argue that the main priority of food manufacturers is making a profit. As in any business the more they sell the better. Their goal is not nutrition. Their goal may not even be great taste and it certainly isn’t love. The companies, who make the food that your child eats, prioritize money.
Do the intentions of the person or organization making your food matter? I will let you decide. When my mom would go shopping for apples to make her apple pie, she wouldn’t just choose any apples. She would choose the best apples with the tart flavor that made her pie so delicious. Contrast this scene with a corporation’s process for making foods. When food manufacturers make a product, they first choose a relatively cheap raw ingredient, like corn, for example (which is in everything these days, in some form or another). They will then take the corn and put it through processes that strip it of most of its nutrients. They do this to increase their food’s shelf life and to reduce losses from product waste. Did you know that foods last longer when they are low in nutrients, because pests like mold are less attracted to foods that are nutrient deficient. Now that the food has been processed it is not very appetizing; therefore, food manufacturers add lot of things to enhance the food’s flavor, texture and appearance. They add substances like salt, unhealthy forms of fat and food coloring. Then they will add agents that will help the food last even longer, such as preservatives and stabilizers. The icing on the cake is that, now that the manufacturers have transformed what once was food into a nutrient void and potentially harmful food product. They will then add a few synthetic nutrients into the food in order to claim to the public that their product is healthy. Obviously, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Our children need more nutrients to survive than the negligible amount of artificial vitamin C, for example, that they put into their products. Taking this picture into consideration, who would you want to prepare your children’s meals?
I know what you are thinking: “Kim, I have a life. I can’t bake my kid’s waffles from scratch every morning!” I totally get that. I would challenge you, however, to start reading the labels of the foods you buy. When your child's breakfast cereal has 10+ ingredients, this should raise a huge red flag and this flag should say this food is seriously over processed and full of harmful additives. When buying packaged foods, try to get only foods that have an ingredients list of five items or less. If you do not recognize the ingredients listed on your packaged products or you can’t pronounce them this may indicate that the food you are buying may contain chemical additives that you want to avoid. Just this small act will remove so many unnecessary additives from your child’s diet. Be conscientious when you go to the store. Read the labels and understand what you are buying.
Processed foods are convenient and last a long time, but at what cost to your children? Your children’s meals need to be made, or at least supervised, by the people who have their best interests at heart. They need proper nutrition for their growing bodies. Processed foods cannot provide them with what they need. Let us work to reduce the amount of processed food we serve to the ones we love. When your child grows up, do you want them to look back at their diet and remember goldfish crackers and frozen waffles, or do you want them to remember something more?
What are the favorite foods that you remember from your childhood? Do you share those traditional favorites with your children?