This month don’t miss the details in this newsletter about Food Day (officially October 24 with events all week) and my research into food additives and colorings. Quick preview, you’ll learn that foods colored pink, red or purple just might have a bunch of bugs mixed in with the recipe. Not kidding…Yuk!. We’ll learn what additives and coloring are safe (or not). You will possibly be left wondering why we allow certain chemicals in our food chain that are not allowed in European countries. Also in this month’s Healthy Kids Ideas Exchange newsletter we will play a game called “Name that Food” as well as “Ingredient Spelling Test”. But don’t worry, I’ll give you some information about how you can avoid some of these nasty things with some information shared by a fabulous blog written by a couple of awesome sisters at Inspired Everyday Living. Stay tuned for lots of fun in this month’s newsletter!
Food Day 2012 is part of a national day of education and action to promote a better food system. With the goal of advancing the “food movement,” The Center for Science in the Public Interest launched Food Day in 2011 in partnership with some 150 advocacy partners. Food Day 2012 aims to bring a stronger and more unified citizens’ voice to city halls, statehouses, and Capitol Hill for policy solutions to an environmentally unsustainable food system that is making Americans sick. CSPI is providing educational resources, technical support, webinars on the issues for local advocates, curriculum for schools, and more. The goal is for over 2,000 events across the nation to promote healthy, affordable food produced in a humane and environmentally sustainable way.
If you are local to the Wood River Valley—this paragraph is for you. (Others across the nation, well, you can skip it if you want—but do check out local Food Day events near you). This year we want to put the Wood River Valley on the Food Day map! To achieve this goal, we are planning two events during Food Day week: 1) fun nutrition-education lessons geared for kids at various schools throughout the valley and 2) an event that YOU can sign up for: a community-wide talk about healthy eating and strategies for cooking and wellness. I’m thrilled to collaborate on this event with Inspired Everyday Living author Laura Carlin, who will talk about fantastic ways to clear out your kitchen pantry and create an inspired area for dining. We will also have local food photographer (and foodie!) Paulette Phlipot there. Have you heard of the book Ripe? A feast for the eyes—you’ll see a link below. We will also partner with the amazing Idaho’s Bounty, a co-opt that allows the everyday consumer to purchase from the extensive network of amazing farms in the Treasure Valley, large and small. In summary, this is an event not to be missed. To sign up and reserve your spot, please follow this special link on the Food Day CSPI site to our specific event.
How to Get Kids to Eat Real
If you were to ask most kids, “Would you like to have some dead bugs with you meal?”, most would say no. But that is exactly what kids are getting, in the form of cochineal extract (also known as carmine or carminic acid), in some foods with a pink, red or purple color. The female Dactylopius coccus costa, small bugs that harvested mainly in Peru and the Canary Islands, eat pink cactus pads, so the color pink gathers in her body and in her eggs. Once harvested, dried, and ground, they make their way into things like yogurt, frozen fruit bars, fruit fillings, and wanna-be fruit juice. Doesn’t that sound great? If you were to ask your Grandmother what carmine or carminic acid was, she would have no idea. She probably wouldn’t even want to try to spell it. Good things to think about… would grandma recognize this food? Could she (or I) spell it easily? If not, maybe it’s not the best thing to eat! In this case Grandma would be right, because carmine can cause allergic reactions in some people. Other reactions to food coloring include hyperactivity, headaches, rashes, and an increased risk of asthma. Some food colorings (for example, Tartrazine for the yellow color) have been banned in European countries but are still being used by food companies in the U.S.
I am not a biochemist, so to get some summary information about food additives, I turned to CSPI. Nutrition Action Newsletter had a cover article called “Chemical Cuisine,” which classified additives as either “safe”, “cut back”, “caution”, “certain people should avoid”, and “everyone should avoid”. Here are the food additives that they pegged as “everyone should avoid”:
-Acesulfame potassium. Artificial sweetener used in chewing gum, diet soda, no-sugar based goods and desserts, tabletop sweetener (Sunett).
-Aspartame. Artificial sweetener used in frozen desserts, diet soda, tabletop sweetener (Equal).
-Saccharin. Artificial sweeteners in no-sugar added foods, tabletop sweetener (Sweet’ N Low).
-Butylated Hydroxyanisole (BHA). Antioxidant (prevents spoiling) in packaged cereal, chewing gum, oil, potato chips.
-Olestra. Fat substitute in chips.
-Propyl Gallate. Antioxidant (prevents spoiling) in chewing gum, chicken soup, meat, potato chips, oil.
–Sodium nitrate, sodium nitrite. Colors, flavors and preserves bacon, corned beef, hot dogs, ham, lunch meat, smoked fish.
Pretty long list, eh?
On the food coloring topic, a study conducted in 2004 at the University of Southampton in England looked at the behaviors of 277 children ages 3-4 years old. Over a series of weeks the kids were given either a fruit drink or a drink made with artificial colors and flavors that tasted exactly the same. The kids didn’t know which drink they were given. The kids with the artificial drink were observed as being more hyperactive that those that were given the fruit juice. Weird, isn’t it? “We assume that because these things do not make us drop dead, they’re safe,” says Dr. Vyvyan Howard, a leading expert on toxic substances at the University of Liverpool in England. “It’s not true. In my opinion, I would recommend that kids just stay away from them.”
Let’s Play “NAME THAT FOOD!”
Mystery Food #1 Ingredients: Enriched Corn Meal (Corn Meal, Ferrous Sulfate, Niacin, Thiamin Mononitrate, Riboflavin, and Folic Acid), Vegetable Oil (Contains One or More of the Following: Corn, Soybean or Sunflower Oil), Maltodextrin, Salt, Sugar, Artificial Color (Red 40 Lake, Yellow 6 Lake, Yellow 6, Yellow 5), Monosodium Glutamate, Autolyzed Yeast, Partially Hydrogenated Soybean and Cottonseed Oil, Citric Acid, Hydrolyzed Soy Protein, Cheddar Cheese (Cultured Milk, Salt, Enzymes), Whey, Onion, Whey Protein Concentrate, Corn Syrup Solids, Natural Flavor, Buttermilk, Garlic Powder, Disodium Phosphate, Sodium Diacetate, Sodium Caseinate, Lactic Acid, Disodium Inosinate, Disodium Guanylate, Nonfat Milk Solids, Sodium Citrate, and Carrageenan.
Mystery Food #1 Answer:
Click here to see Mystery Food #1
Mystery Food #2. Ingredients: Milk, Skim Milk, Sugar, Cream, Caramel Swirl (Sweetened Condensed Milk, Sugar, Corn Syrup, Water, Coconut Oil, Pectin, Salt, Baking Soda, Vanilla Extract), Corn Syrup, Whey Protein, Egg Yolks, Tapioca Maltodextrin, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Buttermilk, Mono and Diglycerides, Butter, Cellulose Gum, Natural Flavor, Baking Soda, Guar Gum, Carrageenan, Dextrose, Vitamin A Palmitate.
Mystery Food #2 Answer:
Click here to see Mystery Food #2
Let’s Play “INGREDIENT SPELLING TEST!”
Are you grossed out yet? Well, stay with me for just a little more. Next time you are at the dinner table, announce that you are going to have a little game/contest. See if your kids can spell:
-Interesterified and Hydrogenated Soybean and/or Cottonseed
-Sodium Benzoate (Preservatives)
-Or any odd looking ingredient you might find on a highly processed food.
Then, ask them to spell grape, or apple, or berry. Easy, huh? Then finish dinner with a beautiful fruit salad!
So how do you enjoy tasty treats without the chemical additives?
You don’t have to be a party pooper and completely ban candy and treats from your house. To see some amazing photos of candy available from The Natural Candy Store, please see this great blog from Inspired Everyday Living. The photos were taken by an 8-year old child and will make your mouth water for these chemical-free goodies.
You can also simply return to the natural colorful goodness of Mother Nature through simple and plant-based dishes. I love the book Ripe for so many reasons. The book is arranged in a clever way to look like a rainbow. The photos are simply amazing. It is for both adults and kids! I recently talked with the photographer, Paulette Phlipot, about how this book is a favorite “car seat book” for kids (even though it is an adult cookbook). Kids simply can’t put it down. They leaf through the photos and take in the beautiful sights of fruits and veggies. Imagine the hard-wiring that is going on in that little precious brain. Try a copy for your own kids!
Have a great month and Happy Food Day!
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This column is for information only, and no part of its contents should be construed as medical advice, diagnosis, recommendation or endorsement by the author. You should always ask your physician for his or her recommendation before starting any new health-related activity.