Summer’s Memory-Making Foods
My recent blog, Summer Food Fun, was written as a response to a mom’s question on mamapedia.com. She exemplified the problem parents face with finding healthy and easy snacks. We often rely on processed snacks, just because they’re convenient. Although, I offered numerous tasty suggestions for healthy munching, there was at least one who was unimpressed.
Rita left this comment on my Summer Food Fun blog, “That’s sad. Are we really so health concerned that we’d deprive a kid of cotton candy or ice cream during the summer? I’m not saying you have to eat that every day, but come on.”
Rita has a point. Happy memories are tied to special summer foods, like cotton candy and ice cream. So what’s the harm?
Cotton candy and shaved ice are purchased at carnivals, fair grounds, and amusement parks. They’re synonymous with fun. Their very essence is sugar, artificial colors and flavors. These treats are eaten a few times a year, but they aren’t the only foods our kids eat containing artificial colors and flavors.
Artificial colors aren’t reserved for special summer treats, but are continuously consumed throughout the day.
Many children begin their morning with artificially colored breakfast cereals and synthetic vitamins made just for kids. They snack on orange colored cheese puffs, gulp down colored pop, kids’ drinks, and powdered lemonade.
Medicines are artificially colored bright pink and have an artificial flavor like bubblegum.
Roxy is afraid I’ll take her cotton candy!
Now, why would I do that?
Kids brush their teeth with tri-colored toothpaste. Jell-OTM, is often served as a summer salad, but in reality it’s sugar and chemicals. Bread and bakery products may have yellow coloring added so they look buttery. Lunches, picnics, and barbeques are often nitrate-filled. Nitrates are added to preserve luncheon meats; they give hot dogs and bologna their pink color. Even boxed macaroni and cheese usually include artificial colors. Our kids are eating a steady stream of chemicals.
Food coloring not what it used to be
Natural plant and vegetable compounds were used to add color to foods until the 1950s. Red colors were derived from beets, green from chlorophyll, yellow and orange from extracts from plants and spices like saffron. After WWII, man-made chemicals were created. They have brighter colors. They are more convenient, cheaper to use, and have an unlimited shelf life.
The majority of artificial food coloring ingredients today are made from crude oil. Any artificial food color which is followed by a number, such as Blue 1, Yellow 5, or Red 40 is derived from, yikes…PETROLEUM. They’re mostly made in China and may even contain heavy metals such as lead and mercury.
These chemicals should under no circumstances be ingested by humans or even pets. They have been linked to cancers, tumors, asthma, headaches, kidney damage, skin problems like eczema, and hyperactivity (ADHD & ADD) and other behavioral and learning problems in children. The FDA and EPA do not require detailed testing of these chemicals to determine the effects they might have on adults or children.
What can you do?
Don’t give your children anything containing artificial food coloring! Today, you can easily avoid purchasing products with artificial colors, by reading labels. There are alternatives to processed snack foods in the grocery store which are free from artificial colors and flavors. Of course the healthiest choice for your family will be organic, natural foods which don’t contain man-made disease-causing chemicals. Watermelon and cherries are natural, healthy summer memory-makers.
Many fun foods can still be occasionally enjoyed and not be detrimental to health. Often it’s just a matter of choosing a more healthful alternative. Today, grocery stores carry ice creams made with real milk and eggs, which do not have any artificial colors or flavors added. Even highly processed chips and cookies can be purchased without artificial colors and flavors.
You can make gelatin deserts and salads, without Jell-O’sTM package of chemicals, by using unflavored gelatin and adding real fruit and fruit juices for color and flavor. You can purchase or make real fruit juice Popsicles. There are natural sodas in the grocery store and you can even make your own with fruit juice and carbonated water. You can enjoy shaved ice made at home with real fruit juice.
Would I take cotton candy from a baby?
Sorry Roxy, you can be sure that I would…or rather she’d never get it in the first place! There is no a way around this one. Cotton candy contains only sugar, corn syrup, and petroleum (artificial colors and flavors). I never purchased cotton candy for my kids. They didn’t feel deprived and grew up loving healthy foods. The amount of fun you have and memories you make this summer are not determined by the amount of sugar and chemicals ingested.