As parents, we strive, to the best of our ability, to provide our children with a healthy diet. We study ingredient lists, shop carefully, pack delicious healthy lunches and cook meals in the house whenever possible.
But the lapses in government regulations about food tag mean that even the most careful parents can miss some important information about what they give their children to eat.
Here are five troublesome things your children consume in meals and the solutions;
Hidden Trans Fat
For the next three years, food companies must stop using partially hydrogenated oils, the major source of artery-clogging Trans fats. This is a new order from the Foods and Drugs Administration. Does it mean parents have little more years to worry about this? Not certain!
One thing you need to know is that partially hydrogenated oils are one of many sources of trans fat, which include emulsifiers, refined oils, flavorings and colors. Lobbyists in the food industry are trying to bribe their way through to get an exemption protecting them from the law phasing-out the use of these ingredients so that they would be allowed to continue using these partially hydrogenated oils in small quantity.
You don’t even need to be told that the FDA guidelines would give room for a key loophole. If a food product contains below a half gram of fat, such food can be rounded down to zero on the Nutrition Facts label.
Your kids will still continue to eat an unknown quantity of harmful trans fat, and will keep adding up in their system until this loophole is closed completely.
Solution; Watch out for this word “hydrogenated” on food labels. If an ingredient list has this kind of oil, but the trans fat quantity reads zero, then the product is consumable for your kids. EWG highlighted various kids’ lunch favorites that have trans fat hidden in them, start eliminating these harmful substances from your diet.
Peanut butters, crackers and granola bars are examples of snacks your kids can take for lunch because they are already and accurately trans fat-free. Visit EWG’s Food Scores to know more about foods that are genuinely trans fat-free.
Genetically modified organisms (GMOs)
GMO labeling is required by 64 countries around the world excluding the United States. Studies have not really proven that GMOs are not safe for consumption, but there are reasons to get concerned: limited research into GMOs safety, an increase in “super weeds” that opposes the use of herbicides with GMOs and as a result, more overall pesticides are used.
Solution; if you want to avoid eating GMOs, go more on the five most frequently genetically cultivated crops: beet sugar, canola, corn, cotton seed and soybeans. You can be more assured you’re avoiding GMOs if you purchase foods that are USDA-certified or have the “Non-GMO Project Verified” seal on the labels. EWG’s Food Scores also tells us ingredients that are likely to be genetically processed.
To jointly the agitate for transparency in food labeling, let’s raise up our voices to abolish the House-passed DARK (Deny Americans the Right to Know) Act, HR 4432, which prohibits states from requesting that genetically modified foods be labeled. This is a means to tell our senators of the House that this issue is of high importance to us.
Wood pulp gets into your kids’ foods through “added fiber” Food producers take out fiber from industrial by-product called wood pulp. They grind it into powder form or process it chemically in a laboratory, then add it to all types of foods ranging from bread to ice cream. The powder increases fiber content, which makes the food appear healthier.
It’s a well known fact that fiber-rich foods are good diet for us, but the source of that fiber matters. The potential health benefits of added fibers in foods are not well understood, and we don’t know how the extraction process affects its freshness.
Solution; check food labels for cellulose and cellulose powder or use EWG’s Food Scores to search for these ingredients in your favorite foods. Apart from wood pulp, be on the lookout for the added fiber keywords polydextrose, inulin, or chicory having a similarly doubtful health benefit.
To get the real health benefits of fiber without doubt, give your family plenty of fruits, beans, vegetables, and whole grains.
Do you know how much sugar your kids are eating? Probably not.
Besides the obvious sources such as candy, sugar hides in places you don’t expect (like pasta sauce) and in greater amounts per serving than you expect (we’re looking at you, ketchup). Foods that are marketed as healthy for children can be among the worst offenders. EWG looked at more than 1,500 breakfast cereals and found that a child who eats a daily bowl of cereal can consume about 10 pounds of sugar in a year.
Added sugar crowds out essential nutrients in your children’s diet, causing them to fill up on calories that don’t support their growth and development. And labels don’t help us.
The FDA has proposed rules to add valuable information about sugar to the Nutrition Facts food labels – both the total amount of added sugars and the percent Daily Value – as they do for fats and sodium. But until this regulation takes effect, parents are often in the dark about just how much added sugar their kids are eating.
What you can do: Do the best you can to limit sugar for your kids. Serve and encourage a healthy, balanced diet and cut back on common sources of added sugar: candy and sweet treats, sugary drinks like soda and juice, processed foods and cereal. Check out these tips for reducing sugar in your kids’ breakfasts and search for your family’s favorite foods in EWG’s Food Scores. This database of more than 80,000 foods will tell you important details about added sugar.
Bisphenol A (BPA)
The toxic hormone disruptor bisphenol A (BPA) may be leeching into your kids’ foods from the lining of metal food cans.
EWG’s 2014 survey found that more than 75 brands are using cans with BPA-based epoxy linings. Studies suggest that young children and the developing fetus are most vulnerable to the health dangers of BPA. And, alarmingly, for most products there’s no reliable way for parents to know whether a canned food is BPA-free.
What can you do? Visit EWG’s BPA in Canned Food Report to learn which brands do and do not use BPA to line their cans. If you don’t know whether a food can contains BPA, ask the manufacturer. Rinsing the food may help lower the amount of BPA you ingest. Never heat food in metal cans. Look for foods in other containers (such as glass jars) and replace canned food with fresh, dried or frozen foods whenever possible.
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