“I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice-cream!”

I remember and surely you do too, as a kid chanting this, either in hopes mom would dish it out, or in celebration once that cone was in hand. Those “screams” would have been better described as squeals of delight at being able to enjoy a rare treat. Fast forward to last Sunday, and the sound that escaped from my lips was definitely closer to a scream combined with a gasp of disgust.

At the end of my street is a kids' playground adjacent to a small wetlands area. Sunday morning this is where you're likely to find me. It's beautiful, peaceful and if I get a late start, the trees offer ample shade around the back side of the pond. Last Sunday I headed out for my walk in and around the park and about 40 mins later I headed for home through the playground. Noticing a container sitting on the grass, I went over with the intent of putting it in the garbage can. Turns out it was an ice cream container. Which, given the heat and that it had likely been there for at least the time that I had walked but likely overnight, I expected if anything was left it would be a melted, runny mess.

What I found instead was a tub of gelatinous goo – not frozen like it was originally, but despite the heat, not melted either. The contents had become a almost jelly-like, nothing at all like we think melted ice cream should look like. Ice cream is after all just milk and/or cream combined with fruit, vanilla, nuts, cocoa etc... Well, at least that's what we'd all like to think and are led to believe. And I do believe we are led to believe certain things about certain types of products making it highly unlikely we would check the label. Ice cream is one of those foods.

Because everyone knows ice cream is high in sugar and fat and essentially a nutrient wasteland, not many people feel moved to read the label. Back to the bucket of Breyer's in the park. Now here's the part that turns those happy squeals to screams of horror. Upon checking the label, I was shocked to find out it wasn't ice cream at all. The ingredient list labels it as “frozen dessert”, made primarily from “modified milk ingredients” rather than the milk and/or cream used to make the real McCoy. Modified. Webster's online dictionary defines modified as “to make basic or fundamental changes in often to give a new orientation to or to serve a new end”. Well, clearly we knew things had been changed when something frozen won't melt and the ingredients we expect to be consuming are no where in sight. Shocking really.

Ice cream is really just the tip of the iceberg. I invite you all to check a few labels in your cupboards and fridges and make sure that what you think you're eating and feeding your family is actually what you're giving them. Here are a few things to watch out for.. 1. Avoid anything modified or that contain “natural” flavours and colours. These so-called “natural” elements originally must come from a natural source but can be modified, changed and altered and still able to be labelled as natural. 2. Be on the lookout for things like propylene glycol (this is actually anti-freeze) and butane found often in things like salad dressing and ice cream. 3. MSG. Yes, believe it or not MSG is still being added to food and should be avoided at all costs. 4. Fructose and high fructose corn syrup are pervasive in our foods today and cause spikes in blood sugar and insulin which results in fat storage and plaque build up in arterial walls of the heart and brain. 5. Anything you can't pronounce or don't recognize.

Of course the best and only sure way to avoid these nasties and turn the horror-film screams to the sound of children giggling is to consume as many foods as possible that do not have a label. Let's face it, if it comes in its own packaging, there's no label to read and there's never any doubt about what you're eating.

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