Your mission, if you choose to accept, is to learn to identify artificial sweeteners – or teach someone else to root them out.
If your child goes to school, chances are they’ve ingested some artificial sweetener in their time there.
Got a Valentine’s Day party coming up? Artificial sweeteners might be invading your school, hidden in juice or candy from well-meaning parents.
What’s Wrong with Juice?
I’ve been saying that I’m going on a juice rampage this week as part of a challenge to school food advocacy. Let me tell you how all this got started:
My son, the saver, brought home an empty bottle from a birthday celebration in his first grade room just before Christmas. (He wanted to make something out of it, in case you were wondering.) I knew there was nothing good inside, but I had artificial food colorings on the brain that week after an article at Sorta Crunchy got me sorta thinking.
I absent mindedly read the ingredients and nearly bruised my jaw on the dresser when I got to the end and saw not only Red 40, which I expected, but sucralose. In case you’re not up on evil things one might find on an ingredients label, sucralose is Splenda, one of the newer no-calorie artificial sweeteners to hit the market.
Although I’m guessing I don’t come across very lenient online, I really let a lot of things slide in real life. I usually just cringe at high fructose corn syrup rather than banning it (when others are serving, not at home!). I look the other way when it comes to fake food coloring (but more on that at the end of the month – stay tuned!). I hate when kids are given juice, but I know it’s a fun treat for a party.
Everyone has to have some un-crossable, non-negotiable, never-compromise-on-them lines. One of mine is artificial sweeteners. They are absolutely never to cross my children’s lips. Ever.
My son knows this very well and would never drink anything labeled “diet,” and after last soccer season, he even recognizes the artificially sweetened version of Gatorade, “G2.” This one wasn’t his fault at all.
I quickly flipped the bottle around to see what it said on the front. I was looking for the telltale signs of artificial sweeteners: “low sugar” “reduced sugar” or “lo-cal.” Nothing. I can’t even figure out why the punch had sucralose in there since the first ingredient was still high fructose corn syrup.
The Birth of a Juice Activist
The bottle was empty.
The line had been crossed.
I had to do something about it.
I realized that education was the only way out of this chemically sweetened mess, so I decided to talk to Paul’s teacher to see if she would let me share information with the classroom parents about how to find artificial sweeteners on labels and why they’re no good for kids.
All of this, plus another story that I’ll share later this week in which someone will pee their pants, was the genesis of the entire week of school food advocacy here at Kitchen Stewardship. I’ll post a “juice decoder” to help people – not most of you, I know, but rookies – determine what juice is perhaps okay to drink and what is totally unacceptable, especially for kids.
So if you know all this stuff, and you’d never touch artificial sweetener with a 10-foot pole anyway, I offer a challenge to you this week to do some real food evangelizing. Teach someone else how to read a label and avoid fake sweeteners, or better yet, teach someone how to buy food without labels.
Welcome to My House…
As for me, I’m inviting the parents from the entire class over to my virtual home tomorrow, and we’re talking about juice.
I want to teach all parents how to help their kids be healthier, and avoiding artificial sweeteners is such an easy place to start. I was telling some blog colleagues about how I was getting my undies in a bunch about juice at school, rolling my eyes and saying, “Yep, I’ll make a name for myself quickly as the crazy food lady, yikes.” (Remember that we’ve only lived here two months!)
They seemed to want to counsel me to simply teach my own kids how to avoid the junk rather than to try to change school policy so that they’re not presented with the junk. As much as I appreciate and agree with the idea of kids having knowledge and agency to take care of themselves – and I do that sort of education, too – I just can’t get over the fact that I might have the opportunity to help other families improve their health! I can’t help it. I just have to be a teacher wherever I go.
My “voice” tomorrow might be a little odd for those of you who are always around, however, since I’ll be talking to a different audience, some of whom certainly drink diet sodas and think nothing of it. I’ll tread lightly and focus on the kids.