Featured Guest: Susannah Johnson
One of the most frequent questions that I get asked as a nutrition professional is, “Will your kids eat that?” And sad to say, 90% of the time the honest answer is no. My kids don’t eat much brown rice pilaf, tahini dressing, or sautéed chard. However… my 10 year-old daughter requests arugula salad with lemon vinaigrette and my son likes “tofu cubes” (savory broiled tofu) and green beans. All hope is not lost.
What do my kids love to eat? Well, anything from The Golden Food Group, of course - chicken fingers, donuts, French fries, mac n’ cheese, boxed cereals, pizza, white breads, chips, cookies, frozen waffles, graham crackers etc. Precisely the same foods that I liked to eat when I was a child.
The truth be told, I didn’t order a salad at a restaurant until I was probably twenty years old. I didn’t eat a raw tomato until I was out of college. It took a while for me to discover that when I ate certain healthier foods I felt better emotionally, mentally, and physically.
As a mom, I want my children to grow up healthy and strong, and I know that a sugar-coated gummy vitamin once a day is not going to do the trick. So I have to find clever ways to sneak some nutrients into those little 8 and 10 year-old bodies…even if it means bribing them with gummy vitamins.
Before I tell you about a few of my favorite healthy snacks for kids, I want to briefly address what is wrong with a lot of the typical, packaged snack foods that are marketed at children. Here are some of the biggest health-sabotaging ingredients to avoid and why:
Found in processed snack foods (like chips, candies, and fruit snacks), some synthetic colorings (FD&C and D&C colors) are petroleum-based and potentially carcinogenic. Tartrazine (FD&C Yellow #5) has been specifically shown in controlled studies to provoke symptoms of ADHD in children. (Curtis and Patel, 2008)
In the United States, BHA, BHT, and TBHQ are common preservatives found in breakfast cereals, chewing gum, and processed snack foods. BHT is so toxic, it has been banned in many countries. “BHT has been linked to organ system toxicity, including kidney and liver damage, hyperactivity in children, and may be carcinogenic.” (Mercola, 2013) These preservatives affect the neurological system of the brain, alter behavior, and may cause cancer.
Not just in Chinese food, but also a common flavor enhancer in processed foods, MSG is a known excitotoxin – a substance that over-stimulates cells to the point of cellular damage or cellular death. (Mercola, 2010) Be aware of the many names of MSG – food companies will often sneak it in under a name like “yeast extract”.
High Fructose Corn Syrup (and refined sugar in general)
High fructose corn syrup increases LDL (bad) cholesterol and contributes to the development of diabetes. Disordered blood sugar levels lead to mood swings, behavioral problems, and increased cognitive impairment and inattention. Sugar literally robs the body of important vitamins and minerals, specifically B Vitamins that are required for thinking, coordination, energy, and memory (Bauman, 2015)
Despite the knowledge that these fats are toxic for human consumption, partially hydrogenated oils are still a common ingredient in processed snack foods like peanut butters, crackers, breads, etc. Numerous studies have shown that they increase your risk of heart disease, heart attack, and stroke due to the fact that they lower HDL (good) cholesterol and raise LDL (bad) cholesterol.
So what are we going to feed our children?
I try to remember too, that the more that I eat junk, the less I want to eat salad. It takes a while to cultivate a taste for healthy homemade food. If we want our kids to eat healthfully, be respectful, be kind, and value what’s important in life, we need to model that behavior for them. Educate yourself and your family, do your best, and most importantly, give yourself a break…they are kids after all.
The fact that you are even reading this makes me think that your kids are pretty darn lucky.
You’re doing a great job,
Holistic Nutrition Counselor
Bauman, E. & Friedlander, J. Therapeutic Nutrition. [Textbook] Bauman College. Penngrove, CA. 2015
Curtis, L.T. & Patel, K. (2008, Jan/Feb). Nutritional and environmental approaches to preventing autism and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD): A review [Abstract]. The Journal of Alternative and Complimentary Medecine, 14(1): 79-85. doi: 10.1089/acm.2007.0610
Mercola, J. (2013, September 14). 5 Common Chewing Gum Ingredients that May Cause Cancer. http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2013/09/14/chewing-gum-cancer-risk.aspx
Mercola, J. (2010, December 8). Top Ten Food Additives to Avoid.