One thing about the omnivorous human race is that we don’t have instincts that drive us to eat what we need like many animals. We are born with a strong preference for sweetness, but we don’t know how to find optimal nutrition without guidance. We do have a strong sense of liking or enjoying what is introduced to us at a very young age, but if that is less than healthy, we have no instinctual ability to know it and make changes. Humans have been known to die from malnutrition, with food substances nearby and readily available, that could have saved their lives or their eyesight. The example that I’m thinking of is a source of beta-carotene growing near a camp of malnourished refugees. The refugees did not recognize the edible plant as a source of the nutrient that could have saved their sight and some of their lives.
Today, I don’t want to talk about classical malnutrition; like kwashiorkor (not enough protein/plenty of carbohydrate), or marasmus (a deficiency of both protein and calories). I want to spend a little time and focus on the abundant junk food advertised as being nutritious and being fed to children.
We really need to rouse ourselves and help the young moms and doting grandmas realize that the cutsie fude, tasty to kids, is not nourishing our darling little ones. It is already fairly widely known that poor nutrition challenges the immune systems of children. Some new research done by Kate Northstone and colleagues adds to this finding and rings a second level of alarm. It was published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, Their findings are that a poor diet associated with high fat, sugar and processed foods in early childhood may be associated with small reductions in IQ in later childhood. They also found the converse: that a healthy diet, associated with high intakes of nutrient rich foods (high in salad, fruit and vegetables, rice and pasta) may be associated with small increases in IQ.
The results showed that a predominantly processed food diet at the age of 3 was associated with a lower IQ at the age of 8.5, and that was a decrease even if the diet improved after the age of 3 years. They found that the more closely the diet was to the processed pattern of high fat and sugar, the greater was the fall in IQ.
The researchers found that their results were consistent with pervious ALSPAC (Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children – tracking long term health of about 14,000 children born in 1991 and 1992). This research previously had shown an association between early childhood diet and later behavior and school performance.
The authors of the study say that the brain grows at its fastest rate during the first three years of life. Other research has pointed out that head growth at this time is linked to intellectual ability. The researchers, therefore, explain a possible connection between good nutrition during the early years and optimal brain growth. Like all careful researchers, of course, they say that further research is needed to determine the extent of the effect early diet has on intelligence. Having said all that, it just seems logical, that when building complex tissues like neurons in brains, that you want to supply real whole healthy foods, to supply the building materials for brains.
Researchers from Prevention Institute recently examined the nutritional content of 58 products that had ‘better-for-you claims’ on the front of the package. These products were made by companies that are associated with the Children’s Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative (CFBAI). Eighty-four percent (49 products), of the 58 products did not meet one or more of the nutrition criteria set out by the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. You can read some of the statistics shared by Dr. Marion Nestle, at New York University in her article Surprise! Most “better-for-you” kids’ foods aren’t.
I’d like to spend a moment on a few of the nine products that DID meet the nutritional criteria of the Prevention Institute. Don’t forget these are from the foods that ‘made it’ to the good list.
1. Campbell’s SpaghettiOs
Ingredients (with the worst of them in bold)
Water, Tomato Puree (Water, Tomato Paste), Enriched Macaroni Product (Wheat Flour) (another name for white flour, with added vitamins), The added vitamins are Niacin, Ferrous Sulfate, Thiamine Mononitrate, Riboflavin, Folic Acid. Each of these substances, inserted as additives rather than natural parts of the whole food – whole wheat flour, are in excess of its standard, driving up the percentage of vitamins in the product.), High Fructose Corn Syrup, (evidence is piling up that it adds to the obesity epidemic). The recipe for SpagehettiOs contains less than 2% of the following: Salt, Enzyme Modified Cheddar Cheese (Cheddar Cheese [Cultured Milk, Salt, Enzymes, Calcium Chloride], Water, Disodium Phosphate, Enzymes), Flavoring, Potassium Chloride, Vegetable Oil (Corn, Cottonseed, Canola, and/or Soybean), Enzyme Modified Butter (Milk), Skim Milk, Paprika Extract, Citric Acid.
Nutrition Facts Serving Size: 1 cup (252g)
Amount per Serving Calories 170 Calories from Fat 10
Sodium 630mg – Ouch! Don’t forget that’s only a one-cup serving.
Total Carbohydrate 37g
Dietary Fiber 3g
Sugars 13g - Wow! Over 3 teaspoons of sugar in each 1-cup serving.
Protein 6g (14.1%)
Carbs 87.1% - 35% from sugar; that’s before you add in the white flour noodles, which quickly turn into sugar, starting in the child’s mouth.
Fat 5.3% - low fat – Just because it’s low fat, does that make it a health food?
- Tomato paste, white flour, sugar, and salt for $1.29 to $1.59 for a 15 oz. can – less than 2 cups.
- If you were making spaghetti with marinara for your child, would you add over 3 teaspoons of sugar for each one-cup serving? Four servings ¼ cup. I can’t imagine all those empty calories – not supplying a single healthy body or brain growing nutrient!
- I’d love to hear from you. How many one-cup servings do you get from an 8-ounce package of whole wheat pasta, a jar of chunky vegetable-containing marinara sauce, and a little parmesan cheese for sprinkling? Real food, real nutrients. Of course, when you make your homemade pasta meal, you can save on not having to buy the added vitamins, high fructose corn syrup, enzyme modified cheddar cheese, disodium phosphate, enzymes, flavoring, potassium chloride, enzyme modified butter, paprika extract, and citric acid. You can be really generous, if you decide to make the sauce from scratch, you can use paprika, instead of paprika extract – whatever that is.
- Don’t forget to use whole grain pasta.
- Of course, if you used actual tomatoes, onion, peppers, garlic to make your marinara sauce, you’d end up with less sodium and additives. But if you don’t want to start from scratch, compare the labels of several brands, and find a truly nutritious and tasty sauce.
2. Quaker Chewy Granola Bars
Granola (whole grain rolled oats, brown sugar, crisp rice [rice flour, sugar, salt, malted barley extract], whole grain rolled wheat, partially hydrogenated soybean and cottonseed oils* with tbhq and citric acid added to preserve freshness and/or sunflower oil with natural tocopherol added to preserve freshness, dried coconut, whole wheat flour, sodium bicarbonate, soy lecithin, caramel color, nonfat dry milk), semisweet chocolate chips (sugar, chocolate liquor, cocoa butter, soy lecithin, vanilla extract), corn syrup, crisp rice (not a whole grain)(rice flour, sugar, barley malt, salt), invert sugar, sugar, corn syrup solids, glycerin, partially hydrogenated soybean oil*. Contains 2% or less of sorbitol, calcium carbonate, salt, water, soy lecithin, molasses, natural and artificial flavor, bht (preservative), citric acid.
Serving size 1 bar (24g) That’s less than one ounce. This is really a small sugar snack – 7 grams of sugar – about 2 teaspoons in that candy bar disguised as a granola bar.
- Even though the nutrition facts don’t mention trans fats, you know they’re there; the bar is small enough to get under the line (half a gram or less) before the manufacturer has to declare how much trans fat. When you hydrogenate oil, it creates trans fats. It’s that simple.
- ‘Granola bar’ sounds like some kind of healthy choice, but you can do far, far better.
- If you don’t want the children to have such a sweet ‘food’ consider, packing some nuts, and dried fruits instead.
3. Kool Aid Fun Fizz Drink Drops – Gigglin Grape
1 1/4 cups Dr. Grandma's DelightCitric Acid, Sorbitol, Potassium And Sodium Bicarbonate, Aspartame†, Contains Less Than 2% Of Natural And Artificial Flavor, Ascorbic Acid (Vitamin C), Sucralose, Acesulfame Potassium, Potassium And Sodium Carbonate, Magnesium Oxide, Soy Lecithin, Red 40, Blue 1, Sodium Benzoate (Preserves Freshness). Contains: Soy. †Phenylketonurics: Contains Phenylalanine.
- The reason that this product got on the list of products that met the criteria is that it doesn’t have lots of sugar. But I’m still at a complete loss for how Kool Aid could be one of the foods that got on the list of products that met the criteria, with so many artificial sweeteners, food colorings, and chemical preservatives. Where is the food value for all those risky molecules producing a sweet, fruity taste to the water? This is about fun and profit, not about nutrition.
4. Kid Cuisine Pop Star Popcorn Chicken
Formed chicken breast with rib meat fritter: chicken meat (chicken breast with rib meat, water, soy protein concentrate, modified food starch, salt, seasoning blend [maltodextrin, sugar, dried whey, flavorings], sodium tripolyphosphate). Breaded with: wheat flour (white flour), salt, dextrose, soybean oil, whey, oleoresin paprika. Battered with: wheat flour (more white flour), rice flour (yet another processed grain), spices, salt. Fried in vegetable oil (bht). Corn with water and sugar. Chocolate pudding: water, sugar, modified food starch, nonfat dry milk, soybean oil, dried sweet cream (sweet cream, nonfat milk, sodium caseinate), cocoa powder (processed with potassium carbonate), microcrystalline and carboxymethyl cellulose, acetic acid esters of mono and diglycerides with maltodextrin, soy lecithin (nonfat milk, soy lecithin, partially hydrogenated soybean oil), salt. French fries: potatoes, canola oil, salt, disodium dihydrogen phosphate (to promote color retention), coloring (caramel color, annatto extract, turmeric), dextrose. Rainbow pops packet (candy that the child can sprinkle on top of the pudding): sugar, lactose, corn syrup, titanium dioxide, red #40, blue #1, yellow #5, carbon dioxide.
There are 420 calories in one dinner.
Fat 13 grams.
Sodium 720 mg Wow!!! It’s only one 8.65 oz. meal.
Carbohydrate 62 grams
Sugar 14 grams (almost 4 teaspoons of sugar)
Protein 13 grams
- The front of the package says, “Made with white meat chicken”;
I’m having difficulty with that statement. Because it has chicken breast with all the soy, food starch, breading, batter flavorings and salt, it can say ‘made with’. It’s the same rule as ‘made with whole wheat’ that I write about – a little of the ingredient is used and a bunch of other stuff and it is reported to be ‘made with.’ This is garbage! We’re talking number two. I was trying to think of a polite word for what I thought of the kids foods that made the acceptable food list; when it was pointed out to me that a grandmother could use her grandchild’s word – thus ‘number two’.
- Do you put sugar in your child’s chicken?
- See a quick demonstration of making chicken nuggets.
- You may want to review a post written by Vic (Dr. Grandpa) called A Rat’s Eye View; it can help us understand the seriousness of allowing children to eat junk food.
- Do you put sugar on the corn when you prepare it for your child?
- How much salt, salt, salt is really needed?
- How often do you cook with sodium tripolyphosphate, oleoresin paprika, sodium caseinate, potassium carbonate, microcrystalline and carboxymethyl cellulose, acetic acid esters of mono and diglycerides with maltodextrin, soy lecithin, disodium dihydrogen phosphate?
- My guess is that you would choose a better menu if you were cooking for your child. French Fries, and Breaded/battered chicken ‘stuff’, pudding/with added candy, corn with sugar and all the additives – it’s unconscionable.
- Try chicken tenders that can be purchased at the market’s frozen section – nothing but frozen skinless, white chicken breast meat. Sprinkle with a little rotisserie spice blend and gently cook in a little extra virgin olive oil. Microwave a yam, cut it into bite-sized pieces and squeeze with a little limejuice. Microwave some ‘little trees’ (broccoli) and season lightly with butter and a bit of salt. Serve some fresh fruit (maybe slice orange circles, apple slice smiles, even canned peaches, pears or plums, if you’re in a hurry. You’d be so far ahead in the nutritional game.
- If a cute cartoon picture of Shrek is on the cover of the box, listen to YouTube – let the kiddies sing I’m a Believer and eat real food.
- Come on con Agra! I know it is unrealistic for me to think that a megacorporation could include ethical considerations to their food processing, but you should at least be embarrassed.
5. Kid Cuisine: Kcs Campfire Hot Dog Meal, 7.2 Oz
Corn With Sugar Water, Mini Hot Dog: Bun [Water, Whole Wheat Flour (white flour), Enriched Flour (two more white flours) (Wheat Flour, Malted Barley Flour, Niacin, Reduced Iron, Thiamin Mononitrate, Riboflavin, Folic Acid), High Fructose Corn Syrup, Soybean Oil, Wheat Gluten, Yeast, Sugar Cane Syrup, Contains 2% Or Less Of: Salt, Dough Conditioners (Contains One Or More Of: Sodium Stearoyl Lactylate, Calcium Stearoyl Lactylate, Mono- And/Or Diglycerides, Calcium Peroxide, Calcium Iodate, Datem, Ethoylated Mono And Diglycerides, Azodicarbonamide), Calcium Sulfate, Honey, Molasses, Calcium Propionate (To Preserve Freshness)]. Turkey Frank (Mechanically Separated Turkey, Water, Contains 2% Or Less Of: Salt, Potassium Lactate, Sodium Lactate, Corn Syrup, Dextrose, Paprika, Sodium Diacetate, Sodium Erythorbate, Flavorings, Sodium Nitrite). French Fries [Potatoes, Canola Oil, Salt, Disodium Dihydrogen Phosphate (For Color Retention), Coloring (Caramel, Annatto Extract, Turmeric), Dextrose]. Fruit Flavored Snack [Apple Juice From Concentrate (Water, Concentrated Apple Juice), Corn Syrup, Sugar, Gelatin, Citric Acid, Natural Flavors, Grape Juice Concentrate, Acerola Extract, Sodium Citrate, Mineral Oil, Carnauba Wax (this is not put in foods for nutrition, a hard wax used in car and furniture wax, cosmetics, and other indigestibles. It makes candy shiny).
There are 340 calories in one meal.
Sodium 550 mg
Sugar 15 grams – about 4 teaspoons
- Front of box says, “Bun made with whole grain” – operative words “made with” – it has a little whole grain.
- It also says “Real meals” – I say look at the list of ingredients and send me some definition of what is real about this rubbish.
- It’s difficult to ever eat a hot dog again, once you’ve seen the production process, let alone serve it to a little child.
If eating junk processed fude is not bad enough, we can always turn to a product created by a French research network called ArtScience Labs. They have an inhalable vitamin product that claims to deliver 100 percent of recommended daily intakes for vitamins A, B1, B2, B3, and B5 with eight puffs of the LeWhif inhaler. This brings an entirely new meaning to inhaling food. My recommendation is to get your nutrients in real whole foods.
I’ve run out of energy to review the other four products that ‘made it’ to the Prevention Institute’s good advertising list. This work has the potential of raising blood pressure – it’s so exasperating. Some nutritionists are speaking about the progress of the food processors in positive terms. They say that the food processors are making incremental progress; I say, ‘Number Two!’ At their slow rate of making changes, many children are growing up on the high sugar, sodium, saturated fat and white flour and it has the potential of causing permanent damage. We need to demand that they stop. Vote with your food dollar – don’t buy ‘number two’ and certainly don’t give it to your precious children.
Lemony Tarragon Chicken Vegetable Soup
This steamy main course pot is flavorful, filling and inexpensive. I served it with homemade sunflower whole wheat bread, but if you’re in a hurry, just open a box of whole grain crackers like Triskets.
1 whole chicken
1 tablespoon dried tarragon
1 teaspoon rubbed sage
2 cups onion, chopped
4 cups carrots, chopped
4 cups celery, chopped
11/2 cups portabella mushrooms, diced
4 cups zucchini, chopped
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 teaspoons lemon zest
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
½ teaspoon salt, if desired
Put a whole body chicken in a soup pot and cover with water. Sprinkle with the herbs. Begin simmering. When the chicken is done (about an hour for a large chicken), remove it from the pot, and slice it open to facilitate cooling. If there are too many particles in the broth, remove with a strainer. Add all the vegetables except zucchini and cook until the vegetables are tender (about 15 to 20 minutes). Remove the bones from the chicken and chop the chicken meat into bite-sized pieces. If you prefer less chicken in your soup, you may reserve some of the cooked chicken for another meal. Add the zucchini, chicken meat, lemon juice, zest, salt and pepper.