blog Jul 04, 2015

Food, or what is being touted as food, is killing our kids. I realize this is a strong statement, however this is the first time in history where the next generation, our kids, is predicted to live shorter lives than us, their parents, due to conditions like diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, caused by being overweight and obese.  Conditions that are preventable.  The thing is, because food is one of the basic essentials we need to live, many people either don't realize or don't believe that most of the foods available today could do any real, long-term damage, let alone be the cause of premature death. After all, if it's on the shelves, it's been approved and it must be safe for us, correct? Think again.

Just for starters, packaging is misleading. For instance many companies market their products as being “gluten free” or “fat free” in an effort to appear more healthful. Often times the product never contained gluten or fat in the first place. It may however, contain high amounts of salt (causes bloating, high blood pressure, high cholesterol), sugar (that causes blood sugar levels to spike, resulting in fat storage) and/or artificial sweeteners (linked to lack of concentration, ADHD, cell damage, weight gain) that would now go unnoticed as the shopper was wooed by what he/she perceived as a healthier option. In order to know what is truly in the food you are about to eat and give your kids, you need to read and understand the labels.

So, what should you look for when reading a label? The three biggies are; serving size, sodium (salt) and sugar. Let's begin with serving size as the nutritional value amounts listed are based on the serving size. Once you begin checking this, you'll quickly notice that the amount the company is listing as a serving may not be amount you are consuming. For instance, most ice cream labels list a serving size as half a cup but people often serve themselves two, three or even four times that much.

Next, let's check the level of sodium (salt) the item has. And again, remember this is per serving. Today, sodium is added to almost everything and as statistics of increased blood pressure, cholesterol, heart disease, etc., continue to climb, it's really becoming a big problem for a lot of people. Whole foods are always recommended over packaged (no label to read) however when you do find yourself reaching for a package, take a minute to check the label and choose one with about 100mg or less per serving.

Sugar is the other amount that should be checked. People are often unaware of just how much sugar there is in a few grams, so let's convert that into a teaspoon measurement to get a good visual. Every four grams of sugar listed is equivalent to one teaspoon of sugar. Simply divide the grams of sugar listed by four and voila! You have the number of teaspoons of sugar in that particular item/serving. As an example, most juice boxes have around 24g to 28g sugar, which, when you do the math equals a whopping six to seven teaspoons of sugar. An amount I can't imagine any parent allowing their child to consume or add to their meal.  Even condiments are loaded with sugar. One tablespoon of ketchup contains about two teaspoons of sugar. I can almost see parents out there calculating how much sugar they just unknowingly gave their children when they served hot dogs and juice boxes for lunch today. Think of it as a learning experience and now that you know better what to look for and what those numbers really mean, you will be able to, and therefore should, do better. After all, with knowledge, comes responsibility.

Now let's take a look ingredient lists. Ever noticed there are more than a few things you couldn't pronounce? If you can't pronounce it, or you don't recognize it, you can bet the farm it's not a real food. Propylene glycol for example is essentially antifreeze and is found in most salad dressings, cake mixes and several ice creams.  Even things like “natural flavour” aren't all food. Using a blueberry granola bar as an example, CNN had this to say on their news website on the subject of “natural” and “artificial” flavours:

“....But that doesn't necessarily mean the “natural flavours” in your blueberry granoal bar are simply crushed-up blueberries. Rather, they probably consist of a chemical originally found in blueberries, enhanced and added into your food in a lab. Artificial flavours on the other hand, are usually entirely human made, as opposed to being derived from a natural source.”

Sometimes even the words we recognize don't give us an accurate picture of what is in our food.

So, what can people, especially parents, do to keep kids healthy and begin to change that doom and gloom prediction for our kids? Simple, eat real food. Ditch the packaged, process and fast food and eat foods that don't have a label and cook at home. By fuelling the body with nutrient dense foods (whole foods) rather than just filling the gap with packaged, processed or fast food (nutrient deficient food), you are nourishing your body at the cellular level and providing what your body actually needs to thrive, not just get by. 

If your family eats outs, orders take out, or prepares meals using items that come from a package more than 3 times per week (this includes breakfast cereals too!) I challenge you to start stealing back your family's health one meal per week and see what a difference it will make in your family. Get your kids involved in choosing and prepping meals too. Kids that cook have fewer weight and health issues as they grow into adulthood and take those good eating habits and pass them on to their kids. Why not start this positive ripple effect with your family's next meal?

Oh, and did I mention the only thing you've got to lose is a few pounds.

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