Are your children in a fantasy food world? It is no secret that we need food to survive. Food consists essentially of protein, carbohydrate, and fat and is used in the body to sustain growth, repair, and vital processes. It provides energy and is supplied with supplementary substances such as minerals, vitamins, and condiments needed for optimal function.
Lifestyles are so completely different than they were fifty to a hundred years ago when people use to raise their own animals and grow their own crops. More often times than not, both parents are working and children are involved in numerous extracurricular activities. Let’s face it, work, kids, baths, homework, cooking, dishes, laundry, and other house hold chores, visiting family and friends, and trying to maintain wellness can be exhausting. I totally understand!!! The fact of the matter is that we live stressful lives. It’s no wonder parents reach for something prepackaged or grab take out.
But, prepackaged food has been approved right?! It must be o.k to eat right??!!
Yes, prepackaged food has been approved, this is very true! All of our foods must go through an inspection process. But, what exactly are we referring to as food? Are we living in a fantasy food world? Regulation of food additives, nutritional labeling, dietary supplements and food irradiation all fall under the jurisdiction of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). In regards to additives, there is a safe threshold that is set for human consumption, or a “maximum level of use”. Additives are generally added in small amounts and are used to enhance taste and appearance, add bulk, add color and preserve shelf life. It may be safe to consume one serving of something, but what if those same additives are in the cereal your child had for breakfast, the granola bar they had for snack, the sandwich at dinner, the yogurt and canned fruit for afternoon snack and the package of flavored rice and sausage prepared for supper? Within a 10-12 hour period, this little person has consumed additives in every meal of their day equaling much more than just one serving.
Not only are convenient foods (fruit juice, canned soups, alphabets, sandwich meats, microwave dinners, frozen pizza, mac and cheese, etc.) filled with additives and preserves, but they provide little to no nutrients children need for optimal growth and development. Macaroni and cheese for example- the main ingredient in the pasta is usually enriched wheat flour. Enriched flour is prepared by extracting most of the natural vitamins and minerals in order to give products a finer texture and increase shelf life. When the parts of the wheat that contain fiber and nutrients are removed, your body absorbs wheat differently. Instead of the slow process of digestion, giving the body a steady burst of energy, it provides a quick rise in blood sugars (yes, even for the non-diabetic). This is that tired, sluggish feeling we get an hour or two after eating. Synthetic vitamins and minerals are then added back in to the product meaning these nutrients are manufactured with chemicals and do not come straight from their natural sources.
Sugar and other processed food interfere with nutrient and mineral absorption. Without the proper absorption, humans cannot develop, grow or work to their optimal performance. Routinely feeding our children refined foods can weaken the immune system. This means that viruses and infection can set in much faster and stay a lot longer. Chronic illness, low self esteem, poor concentration, low energy, hyperactivity, depression, anxiety, mood problems, irritability, emotional dis-regulation, learning difficulties and disabilities have all been linked to poor eating habits and lack of nutrition.
Often times we refer to our children as picky eaters; however, we are their providers and introduction to foods stem from us adults. Children are not born picky; parents have great influence on that. Our taste buds become custom to what we eat at a very young age. Staying consistent with healthy choices will increase a pallet for these foods. Adults set the stage for them at the time they are introduced table food. Although not impossible, it certainly will be much more difficult to change eating preference at an older age. However, it is never too late to start!
Providing a diet rich in antioxidants, vitamins and minerals, while keeping food as close to its natural state as possible, will help keep our mental and physical well-being balanced. Food makes our bodies work, grow and repair itself. Make nutrition a priority for your children. Choose wisely- eat fresh as much as possible, read your labels, experiment with different recipes; involve your family, especially your children and making it fun experience. Take pictures and make memories, your efforts will definitely pay off!!