Eat Your Vegetables! They’re Good For You…or Not?

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We all want our children to live long and healthy lives, am I right?  Making sure they eat the right foods plays a big part in helping to achieve this goal.  Here’s the thing – do you know which foods are the “right” foods?  Are you sure about that answer?

When I first became a parent, I figured that keeping my son healthy would be easy.  When the time came, I made my own baby food from fresh fruits, crisp veggies and lean meats.  He also didn’t have any sugar or junk until he turned one.  Off to a good start, right?  Skip ahead another four years and he continues to eat, what I consider to be, healthy.  Things such as chips and cheesies only happen perhaps once per month (if that) and take out is limited as well.  All the same for my daughter of course.

Over the past year or so, there have been more and more news articles and reports about deadly chemicals found in food, animal growth hormones, deadly dyes and so on.  Let me give you an example.  The following (non-organic) fruits and vegetables are considered the most dangerous because of the level of pesticides found in them:

The Dirty Dozen for 2013
  1. Apples
  2. Celery
  3. Cherry tomatoes
  4. Cucumbers
  5. Grapes
  6. Hot peppers
  7. Nectarines (imported) 
  8. Peaches
  9. Potatoes
  10. Spinach
  11. Strawberries
  12. Sweet bell peppers

The reason these are considered “dirty” is because all of these fruits and vegetables have very thin skins which are edible.  Pesticides are sprayed directly onto them and absorbed into the fruit/vegetable to keep crops insect free.  Even if you peel them, the skins are not considered thick enough to filter out the pesticides.  Do you see some of your child’s favorite foods on that list?  Apples, grapes and strawberries are my kid’s favorites.

How about dyes?  Kraft recently stated that within the next year, it will be removing the artificial dyes Yellow No. 5 and Yellow No. 6 from the ingredients found in Kraft Dinner (a popular meal among children).  These dyes are proven to increase hyperactivity in children.  In the UK, a warning about these dyes MUST be included on the packaging of the foods they are contained in.  Rather than add the warning to their packaging, Kraft decided to remove the dyes all together (You can read more about this story here).  Artificial dyes can also be found in beef (to make them red which is supposed to make them appealing), cereal, candy and water flavor enhancers (such as Mio).

Then of course there was the 20/20 news report about “dirty meats”.  Hot dogs, bologna and certain sausages are made with the scraps of multiple types of meat which are not considered pure enough to go into quality cuts.  These scraps are found on a “sanitary” floor, put into a huge vat to be boiled (and therefore sanitized), then they are pureed, seasoned and formed into the right shapes.  My kids love hot dogs, so I decided to switch to “Maple Lead Natural Selections”.  The ingredients are right on the front of the package – pork, water, sea salt, vinegar, spice, cultured celery extract, dehydrated garlic, smoke.  That all sounds good and natural, right?  Yeah, that’s what I thought too.  Well cultured celery extract is just a fancy term for nitrite – a preservative that may be linked to cancer according to the Canadian Cancer Society.  What’s funny is that on the package, you will find the words “No preservatives”.  (Read more about this here)

So by now I’m sure you’re all ready to eat organic.  After all, that’s what everyone says is the healthiest way to go, right?  There are a growing number of people who are attempting to live a more organic life and those people too are being fooled.  Many companies see organic as a fad and are trying to get in on the action.  A product, such as baby food, may be listed as organic but only certain ingredients of the product are actually organic foods.

By now, if you’re like me, you’re ready to move to an island and attempt to grow/raise your own food!  With SO much contradicting information out there, how on earth do you know what to believe?!  Some people are lucky enough to live in areas where actual organic fruits, vegetables and meats are grown locally.  However, that lifestyle isn’t possible everywhere.  It also isn’t possible for everyone.  Eating organically can be very expensive and when you’re on a tight budget, spending five dollars on two avocadoes as opposed to an extra value meal at McDonald’s seems crazy.

So how on earth do we get our children to eat healthy?  Personally, I’m trying to live by three rules:

  1. Everything in moderation
  2. Less is more
  3. Education is key

I’ve decided that I’m not going to go crazy with trying to live organically because in my town, it’s just not possible to live a true organic life.  My children delight in a Happy Meal from McDonald’s once in a while and I’m not going to deny them of that.  As long as I limit how often they have such a treat, then that will be ok in my eyes.  As for the “less is more” rule, in making my food choices, I will choose the foods which have less chemicals/additives in them.  For example, I will purchase a pint of strawberries over a frozen pizza any day.  My final rule is pretty self explanatory.  If you educate yourself about the ingredients which are found in the foods you eat, you will be better prepared to make smart choices.  Don’t be afraid to google ingredients you don’t know.  I do that all of the time!

I’m not here to try and persuade you one way or another, I’m simply sharing some surprising information that I’ve learned over the past year.  In the end, you have to do what’s right for you and your family.

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