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3 Easy Ways to Make Sure Your Kids Aren’t Fooled by Food Labels {GUEST POST}

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

white sugar and cubes on a wooden surface

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.

kind bars

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).

young girls and mom in the kitchen cooking
Treasure Hunt in the Grocery Store: Brands will slowly be adding the “added sugar” line in the months to come. Try to find labels that have it as you shop!

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 AdditivesArtificial Additives
beet juiceaspartame
citric acidMSG
honeyhigh fructose corn syrup
sodium chloridesodium nitrate/nitrites
cinnamon oilRed 40
steviablue number 1 and 2
turmericsulfur dioxide
annattopotassium bromate
agar agarBHA/BHT
coconut sugarsodium 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.

Fun Fact Find Challenge: Give your child the name of a food additive and have them guess whether it is natural or artificial followed by researching the correct answer. This way will help them to determine which “words they can’t pronounce” are big no nos.

What Kids Need to Know About Fats on the Label

Help your kids navigate food labels and learn about healthy eating with these easy tips. Learning about healthy food can be easy and fun.

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!

Keep Your Skeptic Antennae Up: Our hunch here at KS is that food companies will find other artificial fats that are new and unproven in safety to replace trans fats. Watch carefully for whatever comes next! (Tip: Interesterified might be a word to watch for.)

Become a Food Detective to Stay in Control of your Health!

Make sure your kids arent fooled by food labels

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

kids cooking lesson at kitchen tableAlison Adair has lived in 6 states and three countries as a chef and teacher. For the last few years while living in Seattle, Washington, she has been working as a teaching instructor for Pure Food Kids Foundation, working for multiple catering companies as well as a personal Chef for many families. Her background includes both culinary and nutrition degrees with the highest being a Master’s Degree. She has worked in the food industry for over 12 years as a cook, personal chef, server and also had her own cooking school for kids while living overseas. Her passion lies in teaching young minds to help them learn life skills with regards to cooking and nutrition. Getting back to cooking whole foods and staying away from processed foods is her main focus for the kiddos.
Unless otherwise credited, photos are owned by the author or used with a license from Canva or Deposit Photos.

1 thought on “3 Easy Ways to Make Sure Your Kids Aren’t Fooled by Food Labels {GUEST POST}”

  1. Becca @ The Earthling's Handbook

    Great post! Some other things I’ve taught my 12-year-old to look for (especially when deciding which variation on a food to choose) are fiber and protein. We also look for foods that are free of non-organic corn and soy, which creep into foods where you might not expect them–it’s hard to find bread without them in a mainstream supermarket, but most stores carry spaghetti sauce both with and without them.

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