Monday, March 24, 2014

"Health Check": feeling duped by food labels

I've been on a bit of a mission for the past six months or so, to cut down on the amount of artificial crap (flavour, colour, etc) that we bring into the house. I had read some articles that indicated there may be a link between artificial stuff and children's behaviour, and that the presence of colouring in particular can mimic ADD- and ADHD-like behaviour in our kids.


Years ago, when it was just us and The Boy, we used to go out of our way to buy organic, whole foods, make our own baby food, keep his diet as healthy and natural as possible. I would frequent a local organic farmer's market each week and choose fruits and veggies that were in-season and local. I'd cart these things home and mash them all up and felt good about what I was feeding him.

Somewhere along the way, I lost sight of the importance of whole, natural food. We had a couple more kids, working full time, commuting, weekends running around, etc etc... and life just got in the way. We started taking shortcuts when it came to meals and snacks.
I had forgotten all about why we tried to choose organic and unprocessed foods, why we didn't allow our son to have juice until he was two, why 'dessert' was a piece of fruit, or applesauce, or on a special night, yogurt. Slowly, over time, we started making poor choices for our kids because it was just easier. We started to give our kids McDonald's on road trips, because that's what you do - it's there, they have kids' meals, and toys. We'd stop for a doughnut on the way home from wherever as a 'treat'. We still do.

But then I started to really look into why my formerly well-behaved (for the most part), focused, calm, thinking child had turned into a kid who could not sit still, could not listen to instructions at all, couldn't even hear us when we were talking to him half the time. I even considered getting his hearing checked. Then I looked at his diet, and discovered the colour-behaviour link, and cut colouring out altogether. It's made an amazing difference, though it's a constant battle because these awful ingredients are everywhere.

So when I read this article about the Health Check program (The Heart and Stroke Foundation Owes Canadians an Apology and Action, www.weightymatters.ca) I felt slightly nauseous.

That bag of sugary 'fruit snacks' in the article? I'm sure we have virtually the same bag in our pantry. There are no colours... no artificial flavours... no preservatives. Check. Two servings of fruit. Check. I can feel good about putting them in kids lunches or taking them along as snacks because they are basically fruit.

NOPE.

From the article:
"by weight they're 80% sugar, with sugar being responsible for 96% of their calories."

THEY ARE CANDY.

In fact, as the article states, the same amount of NIBS candy has LESS sugar than these "fruit bites".

Where have I gone so wrong in the past few years? How could I have thought that food labels meant anything? How could a university-educated full-time professional look at a bag of those things and buy them thinking they are basically the same thing as fruit?

I feel duped. And stupid. And angry. And like I need to rethink our entire pantry of snack foods.

Sigh.