Monday, April 19, 2010

Junk Food in Disguise

I like to feed my family home-cooked meals and give my kids healthy snacks. Yes, we like to have our cake (or brownies, cookies, ice cream, pie, etc.) and eat it, too, but we don't make a daily ritual of it. Since I'm home with the kids all day it's easier for me to dish up from-scratch meals than if I had a paying job, but sometimes we find ourselves having oatmeal or scrambled eggs and toast for supper.

There are times when the kids have eaten all the grapes and cottage cheese and we've had apples for 4 days straight and I'm looking around for something for them to snack on. I can always find raisins in the pantry, but most people like a little variety - my kids are no different - so I keep an eye out for non perishable snacks.

I don't think all parents buy junk food on purpose. Sure, there are parents who don't care. But some people just don't think about checking the label. I wasn't raised to read the ingredients. It's a habit I've gotten into over the years. There are times you have to give a product more than a cursory glance to know exactly what you're getting. I happen to have 2 packages of "fruit snacks" marketed for preschoolers. They were given to us and have been sitting in the pantry for a while.

A glance at the first shows "Fruit Snacks. Made with REAL FRUIT." Looks good, right? Here are the ingredients: juice from concentrates, corn syrup, sugar, modified corn starch, fruit puree, gelatin, citric acid, lactic acid, natural and artificial flavor, ascorbic acid, coconut oil, sodium citrate, carnauba wax, tocopherol acetate, red 40, yellow 5, blue 1, vitamin A. There are 15 g of sugar in one serving. The second says "Juice treats. Naturally flavored." The first two ingredients are corn syrup and sugar and there are 17 g of sugar in one serving. Why would I give these to my children?

So in addition to raisins, I've been trying to keep other dried fruits on hand: things like dates, papayas, apricots, and pineapple. I've also found fruit leathers. I like these kinds of snacks because you can store them for an extended amount of time in the pantry (stock up when they're on sale) and they're easy to throw in a bag before you head out the door.

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