And so should you. "Wait, what?" you say? "We eat food every day, duh".
But do you?
As an example, this is a list of ingredients from a turkey and cheese kid's lunch product:
WATER - SPRING WATER. APPLESAUCE - APPLES, WATER, CONCENTRATED APPLE JUICE, ASCORBIC ACID (VITAMIN C). SUB BUN - ENRICHED BLEACHED WHEAT FLOUR ([WHEAT FLOUR, NIACIN, REDUCED IRON, THIAMIN MONONITRATE VITAMIN B1, RIBOFLAVIN VITAMIN B2, FOLIC ACID], MALTED BARLEY FLOUR), WATER, WHOLE WHEAT FLOUR, SUGAR, CONTAINS 2% OR LESS OF THE FOLLOWING: SOYBEAN OIL, YEAST, DOUGH CONDITIONERS (MONO & DIGLYCERIDES, SODIUM STEAROYL LACTYLATE, ENZYME MODIFIED SOY LECITHIN, DATEM), SALT, GUAR GUM, MODIFIED CELLULOSE, CALCIUM PROPIONATE PRESERVATIVE), XANTHAN GUM, ARTIFICIAL FLAVORS, ENZYMES. CONTAINS: WHEAT, SOY. OVEN ROASTED TURKEY BREAST - CURED - SMOKE FLAVOR ADDED - BROWNED WITH CARAMEL COLOR - TURKEY BREAST, WATER, POTASSIUM LACTATE, MODIFIED CORN STARCH, CONTAINS LESS THAN 2% OF SALT, DEXTROSE, CARRAGEENAN, SODIUM PHOSPHATES, SODIUM DIACETATE, SODIUM ASCORBATE, SODIUM NITRITE, NATURAL AND ARTIFICIAL FLAVOR, SMOKE FLAVOR, CARAMEL COLOR. REDUCED FAT CHEDDAR PASTEURIZED PREPARED CHEESE PRODUCT - PASTEURIZED PART-SKIM MILK, WATER, MILKFAT, SODIUM CITRATE, CONTAINS LESS THAN 2% OF MILK PROTEIN CONCENTRATE, WHEY PROTEIN CONCENTRATE, LACTIC ACID, SORBIC ACID AS A PRESERVATIVE, SALT, OLEORESIN PAPRIKA (COLOR), ANNATTO (COLOR), VITAMIN A PALMITATE, ENZYMES, CHEESE CULTURE, WITH STARCH ADDED FOR SLICE SEPARATION. CONTAINS: MILK. NILLA WAFERS - UNBLEACHED ENRICHED FLOUR (WHEAT FLOUR, NIACIN, REDUCED IRON, THIAMINE MONONITRATE [VITAMIN B1], RIBOFLAVIN [VITAMIN B2], FOLIC ACID), SUGAR, SOYBEAN OIL, HIGH FRUCTOSE CORN SYRUP, PARTIALLY HYDROGENATED COTTONSEED OIL, WHEY (FROM MILK), EGGS, NATURAL AND ARTIFICIAL FLAVOR, SALT, LEAVENING (BAKING SODA AND/OR CALCIUM PHOSPHATE), MONO- AND DIGLYCERIDES (EMULSIFIER). CONTAINS: WHEAT, MILK, EGG. NONFAT MAYONNAISE DRESSING - WATER, VINEGAR, MODIFIED CORNSTARCH, SUGAR, HIGH FRUCTOSE CORN SYRUP, SOYBEAN OIL*, CONTAINS LESS THAN 2% OF SALT, NATURAL FLAVOR, CELLULOSE GEL, ARTIFICIAL COLOR, XANTHAN GUM, EGG YOLKS*, MUSTARD FLOUR, LACTIC ACID, PHOSPHORIC ACID, CELLULOSE GUM, VITAMIN E ACETATE, LEMON JUICE CONCENTRATE, DRIED GARLIC, DRIED ONIONS, SPICE, YELLOW 6, BETA CAROTENE (COLOR), BLUE 1, WITH POTASSIUM SORBATE AND CALCIUM DISODIUM EDTA AS PRESERVATIVES. *TRIVIAL SOURCE OF FAT AND CHOLESTEROL. CONTAINS: EGG. TROPICAL PUNCH ARTIFICIAL FLAVORED SOFT DRINK MIX - SUGAR, FRUCTOSE, CITRIC ACID (PROVIDES TARTNESS), CONTAINS LESS THAN 2% OF NATURAL AND ARTIFICIAL FLAVOR, ASCORBIC ACID (VITAMIN C), VITAMIN E ACETATE, CALCIUM PHOSPHATE (PREVENTS CAKING), ACESULFAME POTASSIUM AND SUCRALOSE (SWEETENERS), ARTIFICIAL COLOR, RED 40, BLUE 1, BHA (PRESERVES FRESHNESS).
Now, I don't know about you, but it doesn't sound like real food to me. OK, so maybe you don't give your kids these exact lunch products, but do you truly know what they are eating?
We live in a society that is "time challenged" at best. Time is at a premium and with so much pressure to fill our days with activities that will help our kids excel at school and life, I think we forget about one of the most important things... Our kid's nutritional health.
I use this term "nutritional health" with caution, as it is so much more than making sure our kids get the macro and micro nutrients they need. It's really about starting kids off with the right relationship with food. Real food. Dare I say, home cooked food while all sitting at the same table having a meal together?
Now life isn't perfect, but here's what I try to avoid and why:
- Foods with ingredients I don't recognize. Simply put, then it's not really food.
- Foods that make claims like "low fat" or "100 calorie". Not that these claims are inherently bad, but they are more representative of the food industry over processing food while maximizing profits.
- Chain restaurants with drive thrus (except Starbucks- I love my coffee!). These large chains tend to focus on quantity over quality and often sell food containing many artificial ingredients, colors and chemicals. Plus they "train" our kid's taste buds to favor overly processed foods.
What I do eat (this is just a starter list… more to come over time!):
- Organic fruits and vegetables. I plan to do a separate blog on the merits of organic, but you really can't go wrong with fruits and vegetables, they are low calorie and full of countless vitamins, minerals and protective natural phytochemicals (none of which can truly be reproduced in a laboratory and put into a granola bar). We eat some with every meal and snack. Since we don't have access to farmers markets in the winter, I'm now using Door to Door Organics for much of my produce now.
- Whole grains. I use brown rice, whole wheat pasta, whole wheat bread, whole grain cereal etc. Whole grains are much better than their refined counterparts. They keep you feeling full longer and contain many more vitamins, minerals and fiber.
- Homemade meals at home with family. I try and teach my kids the importance of spending time and enjoying food together. And cooking together. Food is one of the simplest joys and gifts we have in life. It's meant to be treasured, respected and truly enjoyed with the ones you love!
I'll simply close with some of my favorite pics of real food at the summer farmer's market: