As parents, it’s our job to make sure our children are being raised in the healthiest environment possible. One of the keys to this is ensuring they are getting the proper nutrition through their diet. While some kids can be picky eaters, we still need to make sure they are getting what their bodies need to grow.
The best advice is to focus on whole foods — fruits, vegetables, pastured meats and whole grains. However, many families are busy and must rely on packaged foods more often than desirable. Most packaged foods today contain a lot of ingredients, and it can be difficult to decipher what everything is without a science degree.
If you can’t pronounce a food ingredient on the label, it’s probably a pretty good bet that you shouldn’t be eating it. But do you know which ingredients you should absolutely avoid feeding your children?
Check out this list of 7 food ingredients your children should never eat (and neither should you, for that matter):
1. Artificial Colors
Did you know that 15 million pounds of artificial food dyes are used in U.S. foods each year? In the European Union, foods that contain artificial food dyes have warning labels that state: “may have an adverse effect on activity and attention in children.” Yet here in the U.S., they are included in everything, including food products made for children. Of the food colors approved for use in the U.S., nine have been linked to a variety of health concerns, ranging from behavioral problems to allergies to cancer.
2. Artificial Sweeteners
Many people are turning to artificial sweeteners when they learn the dangers of sugar. Unfortunately, artificial sweeteners are not a better choice. Some studies have linked the intake of artificial sweeteners to weight gain. In addition, some artificial sweeteners are neurotoxic and can pass the blood-brain barrier. Others can disrupt the balance of your gut flora. If you need a sweet treat, grab a piece of organic fruit.
3. Artificial Flavors
While it’s best to avoid artificial ingredients in general, what is most important to consider when looking at artificial flavors is that you have no idea what that really means. It may simply mean that there is just one synthetic ingredient included in the flavoring, or it could mean there are a hundred different artificial components added to the flavor. Knowing what you are consuming is important, so avoid artificial flavors.
4. Artificial Preservatives
Preservatives were introduced with good intentions — to increase the shelf life of many foods. Unfortunately, preservatives have been tied to health issues including allergies, neurological disorders, cancer and more. Some preservatives you absolutely want to avoid include butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA), butylated hydrozyttoluene (BHT), tertiary butylhydroquinone (TBHQ) and sodium nitrite.
5. Trans Fats
There is no safe level of intake of trans fats. They promote inflammation and have been linked to cancer, diabetes, decreased immune function, reproduction issues and heart disease. If you don’t know how to identify trans fats, they’ll usually be labeled as hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils on food labels.
6. Monosodium Glutamate (MSG)
Most people have heard that MSG is something to avoid. However, it is labeled under so many different names that you really need to know which ingredients are disguised as MSG. Familiarize yourself with those ingredients so you can avoid them because MSG can possibly trigger or worsen learning disabilities, Alzheimer’s disease, Lou Gehrig’s disease (ALS), Parkinson’s disease and other conditions that involve the brain.
7. High-Fructose Corn Syrup
In addition to avoiding sugar, you should absolutely avoid high-fructose corn syrup with your family. Unlike sugar, all high-fructose corn syrup must be processed by your liver (just like alcohol) and is turned directly into fat. So, if you’re consuming a lot of high-fructose corn syrup, you are really taxing your liver, which can lead to liver damage as well as obesity-related disorders.
This is in no way a comprehensive list of ingredients you should avoid when it comes to your children (and you!), but I hope it gives you a place to start when choosing a more healthful diet.
What ingredients are you sure to avoid with your children?
Feature image courtesy of Stuart Richards