This post is from guest writer Alison Adair from the Pure Food Kids Foundation.
Food marketers spend two billion dollars a year convincing kids to eat foods that are unhealthy – we don’t want our kids to fall for it. But how do we protect them from the cartoons, celebrity endorsement, flashy colors and games that are tempting them to believe otherwise?
A little food label education may be needed.
What Kids Need to Know About White Sugar
There are many types of sugar. One of the most important concepts to understand is the difference between added sugar and natural sugar.
Natural sugar is already in foods from nature, like fruits, milk sugars, and even starchy vegetables.
Added sugar comes from the company who made the product, like cane sugar, high fructose corn syrup and honey.
It’s recommended that adults have no more than 20-30 grams of added sugar a day and elementary kids only about 12 grams.
That doesn’t mean you can eat as many raisins as you want, but it does mean that the fruit sugars in raisins aren’t as bad for us as the high fructose corn syrup or regular white sugar in candy and cake.
There is an easy trick to figure out how much sugar is in the whole package and a great tool for kids to learn (and practice some math!). Just multiply the grams of sugar listed by the servings per container.
So for the KIND Bars above, there are 5 grams (g) of total sugar per bar, and at 10 servings per container that would be 50g of sugar in the whole package. But you’d only eat one bar in this case…it’s a lot more important for something like cookies or chips!
Remember that the most important to watch out for is “added sugars,” so the KIND bars have 4g apiece. Just this year the rule happened that makes food companies put the “added” sugars on the label, so we can tell the difference.
The BEST way to know if a food has added sugar, of course, is to just make it yourself using whole ingredients. And that’s totally doable for kids, especially those who have gone through Katie’s class to teach kids how to cook (which includes almost NO added sugar in any of the recipes).
What Kids Need to Know About Food Additives
Additives are put into foods when companies want to change how a product looks or to make a food last longer.
Additives can come from nature yet can also be made in a science laboratory (and in processed food, they usually are!). Natural additives are healthier for our bodies more than artificial additives. Learning where these additives came from will help us understand what we are putting into our bodies.
Some categories of food additives are sweeteners, food coloring, vitamins and preservatives.
- Artificial sweeteners are always a no-no.
- Artificial food coloring (anything with a number on it) is always a no-no.
- Vitamins aren’t something to run and hide from, but more research should be done on the best kinds of vitamins. Plus, if they’re being added to food, that usually means that all the good stuff that was naturally in the ingredients has been taken out.
- Preservatives are in foods to make them last longer. They’re worth learning about because they’re not all good for our bodies!
Here are some common food additives:
|Natural Additives||Artificial Additives|
|honey||high fructose corn syrup|
|sodium chloride||sodium nitrate/nitrites|
|cinnamon oil||Red 40|
|stevia||blue number 1 and 2|
|coconut sugar||sodium sulfites|
How do we know if we should avoid them?
Adults always say not to eat things with words you can’t pronounce. But for kids, citric acid sounds scary and might be hard to say, and it’s not really on the artificial list. So that means that it’s not always easy to read food labels, and it might take some memorizing of the “worst” words to watch out for.
What Kids Need to Know About Fats on the Label
Fats are really important for kids’ brains, long-term source of energy, and growth and development.
There are many kinds of fat (and a whole series of posts could be written about them), but today we will focus on trans fat for label reading.
Trans fats aren’t found in nature but are created in a science lab. They’re so bad for your heart that the government (finally) decided they can’t even be used in foods anymore. We still have a little time before we’ll never see them again, so it’s still good to know what to look out for in the meantime.
Unfortunately, if there is less than 0.5 grams of trans fat per serving, the company can round down to zero when listing trans fat on the Nutrition Facts. One easy way to outsmart the companies is by going to the Ingredient List and looking for the key words “partially hydrogenated.” If these words appear in the ingredient list, then there is trans fat in that food. Put it back!
Become a Food Detective to Stay in Control of your Health!
Being able to read food labels is a skill children can use for a lifetime. Encouraging your child to become a Food Detective is a fun way for them to learn by investigating clues and solving mysteries. Successful comprehension of food labels is empowering to young minds.
Another way to get children excited about nutrition is by taking a cooking class online and making their own healthy snacks for kids. The Kids Cook Real Food eCourse is the only one that always uses whole foods and won’t be pushing sugar or processed food on our kids!
In addition, if residing in King or Snohomish County (Washington or New York City), contact your local school to see if Pure Food Kids Foundation does a free nutrition workshop and cooking class for 4th and 5th graders at the school.
Information Taken from : Pure Food Kids Foundation