Our children are constantly growing, they need a balanced diet for their brains and bones from the start, for healthy growth and mind. Some of us assume that because these foods are sold in our supermarkets, they are safe for our family. When I started reading labels I noticed that most of our (processed) foods are full of dangerous additives and preservatives that are essential for cheap production and preserve shelf life. If we take each of these ingredients individually, I bet you would hesitate to eat them because these are NOT food. Most of these ingredients are linked with many known diseases like Diabetes, behavioral problems (ie. ADD or ADHD), Cancer, Heart Disease, Digestive problems, Allergies, the list goes on...
In the United States, more than 3,000 substances can be added to foods for the purpose of preservation, coloring, texture, increasing flavor and more. While each of these substances is legal to use (at least here in the States), whether or not they are all something you want to be consuming is another story all together.
The food colorings that make candy pretty colors have been linked to cancer and tumors of the brain, thyroid, adrenal gland and kidney in animal studies.
Of course, eating largely fresh, whole foods is the best way to stay away from unsavory additives, but, assuming you do include some processed foods in your diet, the following additives are ones you surely want to stay away from. Look for them on ingredient labels and if one turns up, take a pass.
This preservative, used to prevent fats and oils from spoiling, might cause cancer. It's used in vegetable oil, meat products, potato sticks, chicken soup base and chewing gum, and is often used with BHA and BHT (see below).
BHA and BHT
Butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA) and butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT) are used similarly to propyl gallate -- to keep fats and oils from going rancid. Used commonly in cereals, chewing gum, vegetable oil and potato chips (and also in some food packaging to preserve freshness), these additives have been found by some studies to cause cancer in rats. If a brand you commonly buy uses these additives, look for a different variety, as not all manufacturers use these preservatives.
Food Additives and Your Brain:
If you want to know more about the effects of food additives on your brain, check out this FREE 300+-page e-book "Neurotoxicity: Identifying and Controlling Poisons of the Nervous System."
Some food additives are neurotoxic, which means they're capable of altering the normal activity of the nervous system -- and even killing neurons. Symptoms include:
This additive is used in breads and rolls to increase the volume and produce a fine crumb structure. Although most bromate breaks down into bromide, which is harmless, the bromate that does remain causes cancer in animals. Bromate has been banned throughout the world, except for in the United States and Japan. In California, a cancer warning would likely be required if it were used, which is why it is rarely used in that state.
Monosodium glutamate (MSG)
MSG is used as a flavor enhancer in many packaged foods, including soups, salad dressings, sausages, hot dogs, canned tuna, potato chips and many more. According to Dr. Russell Blaylock, an author and neurosurgeon, there is a link between sudden cardiac death, particularly in athletes, and excitotoxic damage caused by food additives like MSG and artificial sweeteners. Excitotoxins are, according to Dr. Blaylock, "A group of excitatory amino acids that can cause sensitive neurons to die."
Many consumers have also personally experienced the ill effects of MSG, which leave them with a headache, nausea or vomiting after eating MSG-containing foods. To find out more about the side effects associated with MSG, as well as a complete list of which foods contain it, see our past article MSG: If it's Safe: Why do They Disguise it on the Labels?
Aspartame (Equal, NutraSweet)
This artificial sweetener is found in Equal and NutraSweet, along with products that contain them (diet sodas and other low-cal and diet foods). This sweetener has been found to cause brain tumors in rats as far back as the 1970s, however a more recent study in 2005 found that even small doses increase the incidence of lymphomas and leukemia in rats, along with brain tumors.
People who are sensitive to aspartame may also suffer from headaches, dizziness and hallucinations after consuming it.
Acesulfame-K is an artificial sweetener that's about 200 times sweeter than sugar. It's used in baked goods, chewing gum, gelatin desserts and soft drinks. Two rat studies have found that this substance may cause cancer, and other studies to reliably prove this additive's safety have not been conducted. Acesulfame-K also breaks down into acetoacetamide, which has been found to affect the thyroid in rats, rabbits and dogs.
Olestra is a fat substitute used in crackers and potato chips, marketed under the brand name Olean. This synthetic fat is not absorbed by the body (instead it goes right through it), so it can cause diarrhea, loose stools, abdominal cramps and flatulence, along with other effects. Further, olestra reduces the body's ability to absorb beneficial fat-soluble nutrients, including lycopene, lutein and beta-carotene.
Sodium Nitrite (Sodium Nitrate)
Like diet soda? The aspartame that's used to sweeten it increases lymphomas, leukemia and brain tumors in rats -- even in small doses.
Sodium nitrite (or sodium nitrate) is used as a preservative, coloring and flavoring in bacon, ham, hot dogs, luncheon meats, corned beef, smoked fish and other processed meats. These additives can lead to the formation of cancer-causing chemicals called nitrosamines.
Some studies have found a link between consuming cured meats and nitrite and cancer in humans.
The process used to make hydrogenated vegetable oil (or partially hydrogenated vegetable oil) creates trans fats, which promote heart disease and diabetes. The Institute of Medicine has advised that consumers should eat as little trans fat as possible. You should avoid anything with these ingredients on the label, which includes some margarine, vegetable shortening, crackers, cookies, baked goods, salad dressings, bread and more. It's used because it reduces cost and increases the shelf life and flavor stability of foods.
Blue 1 and Blue 2
Blue 1, used to color candy, beverages and baked goods, may cause cancer. Blue 2, found in pet food, candy and beverages, has caused brain tumors in mice.
This food coloring is used in cherries (in fruit cocktails), baked goods and candy. It causes thyroid tumors in rats, and may cause them in humans as well.
As the third most often used food coloring, yellow 6 is found in many products, including baked goods, candy, gelatin and sausages. It has been found to cause adrenal gland and kidney tumors, and contains small amounts of many carcinogens.
Here is a list of a few products that may contain one to five or more of these ingredients above:
First, you need to become familiar with the unwanted additives or preservatives and start reading labels. Food manufacturers are known to use "clean labels," in which they hide ingredients they know consumers would rather not have in their foods under names they won't recognize.
For instance, if you're trying to avoid MSG, you need to look for all of the following terms, as they all contain MSG:
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Kellogg's Eggo Nutri-Grain Pancakes: The label says they're made with whole wheat and whole grain, but they're made primarily of white flour and contain more high-fructose corn syrup than whole wheat or whole grain.
Betty Crocker Super Moist Carrot Cake Mix: Contains only carrot powder as the 19th ingredient on the label.
Gerber Graduates for Toddlers Fruit Juice Snacks: The primary ingredients are corn syrup and sugar.
"Food manufacturers are shamelessly tricking consumers who are trying to eat more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains," said CSPI director of legal affairs Bruce Silverglade. "Too many processed foods contain only token amounts of the healthful ingredients highlighted on labels and are typically loaded with fats, refined sugars, refined flour, and salt, in various combinations."
It's funny because I've heard many moms telling me they have no time to cook a homemade meal, they work or they go to school, or they just don't know how to cook. Well, let me tell you that I didn't know how to cook until I started cooking. If you know how to follow instructions you can easily find free healthy recipes throughout the internet, some websites even have ratings in it just to give you an idea how good the dish was. Keep it simple, that's all I want to say. Whole Foods came out with a great iPhone app for healthy recipes, it's one of my favorite apps so far, get it!
Leftovers are GREAT! Get a Crock Pot.
Before I got pregnant with my boy, I worked. I worked hard and my two girls always took their own lunchboxes with homemade meals everyday to school. It is so easy to make extra batches to pack these for their lunchboxes, VERY EASY. Another great idea is to utilize a Crock Pot. You can leave your Crock Pot on before leaving to work in the mornings, so you can have a nice hot homemade meal when you get back for dinner time.
I will have to admit, there is only one day of the week that I let my kids eat from the school menu which is Pizza day. The rest of the week, they have a nice variety of meals in their lunchboxes, like cold sandwiches, cold or warm pasta lunches, boiled eggs, cheese sticks, organic yogurts, whole wheat bread, raw veggies like baby carrots or grape tomatoes, a fruit (everyday they get a piece of fruit of any kind, whatever we have available) with every meal, most of the meals are left overs from the night before and we only do Spring water. Juices are very rare in our household, they only add sugar to their diets which leads to hyperactivity and lack of attention in class.
Don't pack too much food.
If you are packing healthy foods and snacks, your children won't need to be fed so much since they are getting enough nutrients from those food you are giving them. The less food you pack the more chances their lunchbox will come back empty. You can also apply this at home. We eat to live not live to eat.
Set an example.
YOU need to make a change in your diet as well, the more likely your kids will want to do the same. It works for us, and they always want to make us proud by eating the same things we eat. Eat salads for dinner, they are very cheap and easy to make. Learn how to make your own dressings, and one of my favorite dressings is a homemade vinaigrette I make every night we have leafy salads:
Thin sliced sweet onions (half onion)
Lemon juice (one lemon)
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 sea salt
1 oz cold pressed olive oil
Mix all in a crystal bowl and let it sit until dinner is served. You can also squirt some Bragg for added flavor, the kids LOVE this stuff! We use it on everything: Potatoes, rice, soups, beans, pasta, salads, anything you can imagine!
Go organic! (when possible)
When I mean to go organic, doesn't mean that you are going to buy every single bottled/canned item labeled organic. The idea is to buy (probably join an organic co-op) organic produce and make everything from scratch! Learn how to make your own tomato sauce, dressings with herbs, buy dry beans instead of canned, make your own soups from scratch with simple water and fresh produce. The ideas are endless! If you skip the junk isle, including all the processed stuff, you can save a ton of money this way. Find coupons online for your dairy items, shop at your Farmers Market instead and bring with you the top 15 non-organic foods to eat and avoid list! This way, you won't feel the need to buy everything organic and save money.
When we eat organic (or from scratch), we tend to eat less everyday. This is because our bodies are receiving the nutrients the body needs for survival. Remember, quality is better than quantity. Recent studies indicate cutting your diet by 30 percent of what you're supposed to eat can extend your life, but you need to make sure that what you are eating is high in quality.
Breastfeeding is not enough
It seems that a lot of people know how beneficial Breastfeeding is for our children and mothers, but if we don't practice healthy habits in general; these benefits will be thrown out the window. Why are we taking any chances? In the old days, both parents worked hard to support their families, they were still able to make homecooking for the whole family each day when convenience-foods was pretty much non-existent! Why do we keep making excuses about how difficult our lives are, and we are not creating time to cook for our loved ones? We take the time to find the best car seats for our children to protect them from car accidents, or child-proofing our homes or making sure they don't get sunburned by applying sun block right before a nice day at the beach yet we forget about the food that it is feeding our family, going inside our bodies and it is making us sick.
Please, mama, take charge of your family's dinner... read every label!
Great Advice on how to read Ingredients Labels <--click to watch video
Eating Well for Optimum Health - DVD
(You can watch online through Netflix) Watch Clip
King Corn - DVD
(You can watch online through Netflix) Watch Trailer
Super Size Me - DVD
(You can watch online through Netflix) Watch Trailer
(coming soon to stores) Watch Trailer