Look On The Inside

Put The Label On The Front, Please

A friend and I joked the other day about how food labels should be on the FRONT of every package!  Show thyself, you traitor!  (The food that is, not my friend.)  Let’s look at a few labels.

Simply GoGurt  Healthy, right?  Used to always be in my cart two years ago!  I make yogurt with TWO ingredients:  milk and cultures.  That’s it.  If I want it thick, I sit it in a strainer with a coffee filter and let the liquid (whey) drip out.  If we want it sweet, the girls add maple syrup to taste.  If we want color, we add blueberries and strawberries.

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Did you do an analysis?  What reasons did you come up with to leave this out of your cart and out of your kid’s mouth?

  • Sugar:  Kids get WAY too much sugar, especially in these hidden food products.
  • Preservative (Potassium Sorbate):  What are all these preservatives doing to the good, healthy bacteria that we absolutely have to have in our GI tracts?
  • Modified corn starch:  Why is there corn starch in yogurt?  You’d never figure out if the child had a corn sensitivity or dairy sensitivity if they ate this and you were unaware of the corn ingredient!
  • Gelatin:  Not inherently a bad thing.  It’s a thickener.  But why use gelatin and carrageenan to thicken?  Why thicken it at all?
  • Carrageenan:  This is extracted from seaweed and acts as a thickener and binder.  Health nuts will tell you it may cause cancer or colitis.  Bottom line here in GoGurt is it’s not needed.
  • Natural flavor:  Always an ambiguous term that can imply many things.  A gray cloud.
  • Vitamins:  You may or may not care.  But most vitamins are now produced in China.  I’m not too pleased with their track record on these things.
  • Tricalcium Phosphate:  Adds calcium and regulates acidity.  I don’t know enough to say any more.  But I do know it doesn’t have to be in there!

For you health-nuts (I do hope you know I’m laughing at myself when I type “health-nut”–as if I don’t belong in this category– I’m full, fair, square in the thick!), I’m sure you’re all over the fact that it’s not grass-fed dairy and it’s low fat dairy.  Good points, but we’re saving the world in medium-sized steps at a time here.  For this to work, it has to appeal to the masses.

Cereal  Once in elementary school I had an argument with my best friend on the bus about which was healthier, her breakfast of Life Cereal or my breakfast of Fruity Pebbles.  We made up over brownies at lunch.

Whole grains only is our goal here.  No sugar.  No preservatives.  Let’s check it out.

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What did you come up with?

  • Sugar:  Ingredient number two!  Put it down.  If you want your kids to have sugar, save it for dessert.  Not breakfast.
  • Preservatives (BHT):  Your body needs the naturally occurring bacteria that live in our guts.  Preservatives have the job of stopping bacteria.
  • Colors (yellow 5 and yellow 6):  I can see NO good reason ever for colors to be added.  Color is added  because “all that glitters is gold.”  They want you to think it looks pretty.
  • Vitamins and minerals:  The original grains have been stripped SO badly of their vitamins and minerals during processing, that in order for this box of cereal to have ANY nutritional content (besides calories), the vitamins and minerals must be added back in artificially.

And the die-hards are saying they don’t touch grains with a ten-foot pole.  Another faction of die-hards are worried that it’s not organic and it’s not sprouted.

Garlic  The last one we’ll have time for today.  When I went gluten-free, dairy-free to fix my GI tract (and then I had to go A LOT further nutritionally), I didn’t realize the extent of ingredient mixing!  Wheat-protein here.  Dairy there.  Soy here.  I used this garlic as a short-cut in cooking.  This was an introduction to the philosophy of reading EVERY LABEL, EVERY TIME.

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I know it’s hard to read so I’ll retype it:  organic garlic, organic canola oil, sodium lactate, whey (milk), sea salt, dextrose, glycerin, ascorbic acid to protect color and flavor, citric acid, calcium chloride, xantham gum.

What do you think?

  • Canola Oil:   Oil/fat choices are olive oil, coconut oil, tallow, lard, butter–to get us started (the topic does get a little–lot–deeper).  Canola oil makes me unhappy with my choice.  Briefly, canola oil, soybean oil, vegetable oils, and other processed oils are high in a type of fat called omega-6.  Omega-6 is easy to come by in our diets and so we have exorbitant levels of it!  Omega-3s are not so easy to come by (seafood, certain nuts, pastured meats, plus a few other sources), and so we have a detrimental mismatch of omega-6 to omega-3.  This allows certain types of prostaglandins and cytokines to be formed which increase inflammation in our bodies (think allergies, eczema, autoimmune disorders, heart disease, headaches, etc).  There are also some processing concerns with canola oil.
  • Whey (milk):  Now if I was buying cheese, I’d be satisfied with this.  But what the heck are they doing putting whey in my garlic?  No wonder so many dairy-elimination trials, wheat-elimination trials, soy-elimination trials fail!!!!!  And two years ago I was clueless and missed this until I started label reading.  Every label.  Every time.
  • Dextrose:  A type of sugar.  So now I have sugar and milk in my garlic.  Again–put it down and walk away.
  • A bunch of hobbledy, gobbledy:  Xantham gum, citric acid, glycerin, calcium chloride, sodium lactate.  I don’t know what all that stuff is in my garlic for.  I kind of know what the stuff is, but I don’t have it in my kitchen.  My kids can’t pronounce the words.  Just a bunch of junk.

Look On The Inside

We teach our kids to look on the inside of people.  Don’t judge a book by its cover.  Appearances are deceiving.  If they’re mean to you, walk away.  You don’t need them.

Let’s teach them to look on the inside of food.  Beyond the box.  Beyond the commercial.  Beyond the “one-liners” on the front:  “All-Natural,” “Whole Grain,” “High in Fiber,” and “Organic.”  Read the ingredients together.  When they ask you why they can’t eat this or that when Suzy is, make some absolutes.  “We don’t eat food with added colors and preservatives.” OR  “We don’t eat food with sugar unless it’s dessert.”  I can’t tell you what is going to work, and although the health-nuts (yes, I’m included in here again) think THEIR diet plan is best, the truth is we just don’t know.  BUT I DO KNOW IT STARTS WITH REAL FOOD NOT PACKAGED FOOD.

Just like you need real friends, you need real food.  (Hey–before we get to know each other, can I see your ingredient list… 🙂 )

~~Terri

21 thoughts on “Look On The Inside

  1. sryanmliw

    I found it so much easier to avoid getting flour bombed or being exposed to dairy once I really knuckled down on using packaged foods. It still sneaks in from time to time, but much less now. If you had an ingredients label, what would it say? I imagine mine would start out something like “Ingredients: Sarcasm, snarkiness, skepticism, exhaustion, wine……”

    Reply
    1. thehomeschoolingdoctor Post author

      Packaged foods are snipers. (Pow, pow, pow, pow.)

      My ingredient list? Hmmmm. That is a fun question. I should have three different people answer that one! My husband, a sister, and a friend! I’ll bet I’d see different answers! LOL! Change that last one of yours to “whine,” however, and I know that’d be in there somewhere! (Not that wine isn’t in there, too!)

      Reply
  2. rebecca2000

    I’ve gone overboard on some of this. My kids are known for teaching their friends to read labels because I’m a nut. It doesn’t mean that I don’t allow certain things, because I do on occasion let junk food creep into my house, but I want them to be aware.

    Reply
    1. thehomeschoolingdoctor Post author

      I am the same. We were very, very strict while doing the special diet. Now that we’ve figured things out, we don’t have to be so strict in most areas. But awareness and knowledge will allow them to carry this with them forever and make their own (hopefully great) choices.

      Funny about your kids teaching the other kids to read labels!

      Reply
    1. thehomeschoolingdoctor Post author

      Short-circuited my short-cut! And for people with an anaphylactic dairy allergy, terrifying! I don’t know how anaphylactic food allergy people do it! Very scary and unnecessary how they mix and match foods.

      Reply
  3. MikeW

    A hammer of a post for truth in advertising, and a pair of reading glasses for every grocery store cart.

    Advertising is symptom of pathology itself sometimes.

    Reply
  4. Lindsay

    Wow, I don’t realize how far away I’ve been from this kind of crap until I see these labels! Most of us really have no clue what we’re putting in our bodies, do we? This is a good reminder of how far I’ve come in my knowledge and my habits as well as how far gone the average person really is, nutritionally speaking. Yikes.
    No wonder my friends think I’m insane when I suggest dietary interventions for a good friend with IBD who keeps feeling terrible and being hospitalized for one reason or another. Frustrating!

    Reply
    1. thehomeschoolingdoctor Post author

      So true! I always forget until I go to a pot-luck or go on vacation or something!

      Yes, people really don’t see that food products could intervene! But they’ve been told such by healthcare people. Ahem!

      Reply
  5. JenH

    Oh . . . my . . . gawd . . . Why do we do this to ourselves? I think we actually like the small print on the back of the package so we can continue to indulge in the illusion that it is actual food!

    Quick request for advice: your previous post about helping a friend and her daughter change eating habits (because the girl had signs of/or was already developing metabolic syndrome) got me thinking. Our next door neighbor has a granddaughter 1 1/2 yrs. older than my 4 1/2 yr old. The little girl spends most of her time at her grandparents house & she is my daughter’s most beloved BFF. I’m in that situation where the little girl loves to eat & when my daughter plays at her house they love to feed her. They know a bit about how & why I feed my daughter the way I do but have sort of zeroed in on the gluten free thing and assume that is my only focus. Unfortunately gluten-free frozen waffles with syrup or gluten-free organic suckers are not what I consider a healthy snack (or a meal or edible for that matter, people seem to think gluten free and/or organic = healthy).

    I solved the problem of my daughter being fed this stuff by packing a bunch of veggies & fruit that she can take when she goes to play (at 4 1/2 she is really getting good at this, which kind of makes me sad that she has to worry about it). However, this little girl’s mother (whom I rarely see) has suffered from severe PCOS (I also have PCOS, well controlled however) and is a walking textbook picture of metabolic syndrome. The little girl is VERY chubby (outweighs my daughter by 15 lbs. despite being the same height) and has very clearly developed pronounced breast buds (she just turned 6). I have often seen her allowed to have several mini-cupcakes AND gogurt has an afternoon snack – I almost pass out!

    I so desperately want to give this family some information on nutrition and disease development. However, they are not seeking my advice and I certainly don’t want to offend them (I’m sure you understand how sensitive the subject of what you feed your children can be). Any ideas for a simple/easy to understand resource on the topic that gives some specific info. on diet (I’ve searched but it is so hard to find info. from mainstream sources that admit that diet plays a role in the development of metabolic syndrome or PCOS that doesn’t also recommend low fat, vegetable oils and lots of whole grains) that I could casually pass on? I tend get so worked up about this topic and always worry I’m going to overwhelm people so I often hold back. Any suggestions from all you real food experts/moms out there would be so appreciated!

    Thanks!

    Reply
    1. thehomeschoolingdoctor Post author

      I understand completely. It is very hard to stand by and watch children suffering due to food choices which we are meant as adult caretakers to intervene it. (It is difficult, too, to watch adults suffer.) I had no intention of trying to reach my friend’s daughter, and I’m so proud of this little girl for persevering in this! Wow! I talked to my friend many months ago about what my family was doing, if she was interested in it, stop by, etc; it kind of stopped there as we went our ways. Then I had the opportunity to say to her at about the time of this post, “If everything comes back negative and you’re still experiencing symptoms, come talk to me! I really, really helped my ‘XYZ’ through my diet—and I NEVER thought it would make a difference.” So I guess for me, I was able to hopefully affect a family through an adult with a similar health issue as mine…which sounds like maybe you have something in common (PCOS)…could be an avenue. My friend came over and the kids played while we talked at the kitchen table and I sent home a book I thought she could relate to (I think each individual will resonate/cooperate with a different “plan”–which is okay with me as long as strides are being taken for real food–then we can tweak it for IBS, FODMAP, PCOS, autoimmune, gut dysbiosis, diabetes, religious considerations, etc).

      I quickly Googled kids and metabolic syndrome/PCOS/insulin resistance, and, like you, I wasn’t happy with what I found. Too much encouragement to eat oatmeal, whole grains, etc–which I think is a CRUTCH for people “not in the know.” (As are the gluten-free foods you mentioned! As if! LOL!)

      I hold back like you–but kind of like the way I used to weigh my mom and dad when I really wanted something–kind of hinting–dropping it–mentioning it–waiting—always feeling them out until BAM–pop the question or proposition when I sense they’re soft! 🙂

      So I didn’t have much to offer you, but, please–if any reader does–chime in!!!

      Good luck! ~~Terri

      Reply
  6. All Seasons Cyclist

    One of my close friends is a research scientist at a government lab and he has a VERY strict rule about food: If the package has more than five ingredients he refuses to eat it. Period. One of his favorite sayings about food is, “The longer the shelf life, the shorter yours will be.”

    Reply
    1. thehomeschoolingdoctor Post author

      Oh, how I wish this would be taught in health class in schools. And on our pediatric and internal medicine rotations in medical school. This stuff is really driving me crazy now that I see it! If people even followed that rule about 80% of the time, our whole health/healthcare system could be overhauled. We probably could have averted this crisis we’re in.

      Reply

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