Tag Archives: processed food

Eat Everything In Moderation: Truth, or Excuse? 

  

One of the most frustrating arguments that I hear from friends and family whom I try to persuade to eat healthier is that “everything in moderation is perfectly fine”.  But is it? 

The first problem with this reasoning is that everyone’s definition of moderation is different.  Eating a doughnut on Monday, a drive-through burger and fries on Tuesday, greasy pizza on Wednesday, a full size chocolate bar on Thursday, and fried chicken on Friday is NOT moderation. Eating a pastry with sugary, cream-topped coffee at breakfast plus a bag of chips in the afternoon and a few unhealthy cookies after dinner all in one day is DEFINITELY NOT moderation (I actually know a few people who argue that it is, you know who you are 😉). Eating healthy meals every day drowned in unhealthy sauces (ketchup is NOT healthy!) is also not moderation.  

Yet so many people don’t realize that what they think is moderation actually isn’t when they tally up all of the different foods that they claim to eat only occasionally.  One common mistake that I see people make is to look at each type of junk food they eat individually instead of looking at all the junk food they eat in a day or week collectively.  Sure, one doughnut a week is moderation, as is one bag of chips or one chocolate bar or one pizza etc.; but when you add all of these things up its simply too much.  

The second problem is that a lot of what you hear and read is promoted by companies who stand to lose a lot of money if everybody were to eat healthy.  Just like the tobacco industry had doctors and researchers on its payroll for decades to convince people that smoking didn’t cause lung cancer, the junk food industry has people out there promoting the idea that a little junk food isn’t all that bad.  And just like smokers who couldn’t fathom the thought of quitting supported and perpetuated the tobacco industry’s denials of a link to lung cancer, junk food addicts also support the junk food industry’s motto “everything in moderation is safe”. 

 If this were true, smoking crack in moderation would be safe too.  

Every time a new study comes out confirming the ill-effects of a certain unhealthy food or additive, junk food addicts are quick to argue “well it’s still ok in moderation” 😒.  Just like addicts of any other substance, they will ignore reason and logic and look for any excuse to continue eating the crap that they think they can’t live without.  And taking the moderation angle is the perfect excuse. 

The third problem is that because we are exposed to an increasing amount of harmful stuff that we cannot control (pollution, radiation, etc), we must do everything in our power to avoid exposure to the toxins that are in our control.  And that includes food.  Yes, our bodies can handle a small level of toxic substances without any ill-effects; but when you add the cumulative effect of pollution, stress, radiation, and decreased nutrient content of food, there really isn’t any room left for “moderate” consumption of processed junk food.  Eating mostly healthy food is not a license to eat whatever extra junk you want.  

I dont believe in quitting all processed food cold turkey, as that is likely to be short lived. The transition to a clean diet and lifestyle should be gradual and taken one step at a time.  The best way to start your road to healthy eating is to slowly eliminate unhealthy foods that you know you can live without first, then work your way up to foods that are harder to part with.  Pick a few select “junk foods” that you absolutely love and use those as your occasional (not daily) treats.  For everything else, find a healthy alternative. 

 This may seem difficult but it’s not; a simple Google search will show you that for any type of food you can think of, there is someone out there who has come up with a healthy version of it.  If you love French fries, learn to make your own healthy baked version, or ask for your fries to be baked at restaurants (more and more restaurants are accommodating this request).  If you love sweets, try making a big batch of naturally sweetened baked goods at the beginning of the week that you can eat when you get a craving.  If you can’t survive without coffee every day then cut the sugar and cream and find healthier ways of flavouring it.  If you fall off the healthy eating wagon a few (or several🙄) times, don’t beat yourself up about it and don’t give up.  Just get back into it the next day.  The further you go on your clean eating journey, the less those relapses will happen because you will simply lose the desire to eat or drink things that you once thought you could never give up.  

If you are pregnant or have kids, it is even more important for you to understand that everything is not safe in moderation.  Babies and kids are developing so fast that exposure to toxins can have a negative impact on not only their growth and brain development, but also on their future health (more on that in a future post).  The field of epigenetics is discovering exactly how early exposures to the right or wrong chemicals can have lifelong consequences.  So stop including that mini chocolate bar in your child’s lunchbox every day as a treat for eating their vegetables.  You’re basically just negating the positive effect of the healthy foods that they eat.  

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Invest In Your Health: Eat Real Food

   
One of the reasons why people choose processed food over real food is the cost.  Real food costs more, and if you’re comparing organic food the price difference is even greater.  I understand that it’s hard for a lot of families to afford fresh, wholesome food.  But it needs to be at the top of everyone’s priority list.  Your health and your family’s health should come first.  That may mean cutting costs in other departments (housing, clothing, entertainment, etc), but nothing is more important than your health.  The old saying goes “you are what you eat”, NOT “you are what you wear”, or “you are what you live in”, or “you are what you drive”…..

Good quality food made with real ingredients and nothing artificial is worth the investment; your return on that investment will be good health.  That, in my opinion, trumps everything else.  

Junk Food Police: Why I don’t allow my child to eat what all the other kids are eating 98% of the time.  

    

 
I can’t count how many times someone has told me that kids shouldn’t be deprived of junk food or that “all the other kids eat it”.  If all the other parents were letting their kids jump off a bridge, would you let yours? 
I didn’t think so.  

So why on earth would you feed them junk that not only provides little to no nutrition but also contains toxins that could harm them in the long run?  So they can “fit in” or “be a kid”?  Playing and having fun is a normal part of childhood.  Consuming food and beverages that sets kids up for a lifetime of health issues should NOT be a normal part of childhood. 

But unfortunately it is.  Because we made it so.  

I too, end up allowing my child to eat junk occasionally (and by occasionally I mean at birthday parties or other events).  I too, see the sad puppy dog look on her face when she wants to eat what everybody else is eating at a social gathering, and give in to spare her the feeling of being left out.  Sometimes this even means giving her small wheat or chocolate-based goodies, both of which cause her varying degrees of gastrointestinal trouble.  I understand that she needs to be healthy not only physically but emotionally as well, and fitting in or feeling “normal” in social settings is important, within certain boundaries.   While I want her to learn to think for herself and not do what everybody else is doing, I also don’t want her to feel like the oddball at every single party.  I too, struggle with balancing all of her needs.  And in the modern world that sadly means feeding her the occasional toxin.

But what I don’t do is make junk food available at home.  Because if everyone is eating healthy at home, there is no opportunity for her to feel left out.  There is no sad puppy dog look, no guilt, no feeling of being the oddball.  And home is where she is going to eat most of her meals and snacks.  I know that if I lead by example, she is more likely to make healthy choices on her own outside of our home when I am not there to make those decisions for her.  I also make healthy homemade baked goods so that she can still enjoy treats without the excessive sugar, preservatives, food colouring and other additives.  Do the processed, toxin-filled, store bought versions taste a little better? Of course.  But if I keep my child away from the processed stuff, her taste buds will develop normally; and real, wholesome food will continue to taste good to her as she grows older, if not better. 

The more exposure kids have to processed junk, the more desensitized to regular food they become until real food is simply not enjoyable anymore.  I wish more parents understood this.  
I think most parents believe they are depriving their kids if they don’t give them junk food and candy because they themselves feel deprived if they don’t eat those things.  We project our own feelings on to our kids.  We think our kids will feel the same joy and pleasure as we do, but they don’t get the same feelings of nostalgia when eating a Twinkie or Oreo.  At least not yet.  If you choose to make these things a part of your kids’ childhood then they too will grow up to have an emotional connection to unhealthy food.  

There is also the theory that kids (and adults) who are deprived of junk food and candy will “binge” when tempted, but if it is made available regularly it will lose its allure; therefore kids will learn to eat those items in moderation.  And moderation is better than bingeing.  

I am living proof that this theory is hogwash.  

Growing up, I had an ample supply of junk food and candy available 24/7.  Did I learn to eat things in moderation? Nope.  Did junk food become less alluring? Ha!

For example, I would regularly consume 7-8 chocolate chip cookies, 2-3 packets of “Gushers” fruit snacks, and a large handful of candy in one sitting as a bedtime snack.  And that would be the same day that I ate a couple of Pizza Pops followed by half a container of Pringles chips earlier as an after-school snack.  Not to mention all the Pepsi, Popsicles, and slurpees that I regularly consumed.

 I wish I was exaggerating but unfortunately for my future health, I’m not.  

My mother always prepared a fresh, balanced and healthy dinner every night; but because my taste buds were so badly tainted by the junk, I would eat a small dinner and just follow it with a large unhealthy snack later.  Despite having access to BOTH healthy food and junk food in my home, I did not learn to balance both.  Miraculously I never struggled with my weight, which is probably why I continued eating so much junk for so long.  

 Now that I’m eating healthy every day I still cave and “binge”once in awhile when I’m exposed to junk food and candy, but my idea of a “binge” from then and now has changed drastically.  I still use the word binge, but you can’t really call 2-3 small Halloween-sized candies a binge.  

Yup, my occasional weak moment now equates to less than ONE full-size chocolate bar or a couple of small cookies. 

 I was at a baby shower recently and all I chose from the impressive dessert table was ONE cupcake as a treat.  Anyone who knew me 5 years ago would have expected me to eat everything on the table and then go back for seconds.  I wasn’t restricting myself, I honestly didn’t want anything more than that.  

Despite not buying any type of soda pop for the last 4 years, I have no desire to drink it when I have access to it outside of my home.  I simply lost the taste for it.  

By “depriving” myself of junk food, I am slowly but surely losing the desire to consume it.  There are many foods that I used to love that no longer taste palatable.  When I eat them now, the strong, processed taste actually makes me feel sick.  (I still can’t say this for chocolate unfortunately).   There are many processed foods that I no longer consume or even want to consume, but I didn’t quit them all at once. I gave up one thing at a time as my knowledge of toxic substances in our food grew.  

Kids will only crave junk food and sweets if you allow them the opportunity to become addicted to them.  Because that’s essentially what cravings are, a strong desire to consume something that your body either needs or is addicted to.  You don’t need processed food, you are simply addicted to it.  Do you want your kids to be addicted too? 

Give your kids a good start: feed them healthy food now and it will pay off later

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I am a textbook parent. I read all the parenting books I can get my hands on and follow all of the rules. I made homemade baby food from scratch and refused to give my child ANYTHING with added sugar or salt during her first year of life (not even a small lick of icing or ice cream). I refused to let any processed food touch her lips until she was well over a year old, and even now at 2 years old it is still a rare occurrence. To some, this may sound extreme. But to me, it just makes sense.

Prenatal and early childhood nutrition can have long-term effects that do not manifest until later in life. Exposure to toxic chemicals early in life can cause epigenetic changes in developing babies and children which may lead to diseases in adulthood5. Food additives as well as chemicals in food packaging that leach into the food may be toxic and so they should be avoided, especially by children3. This is probably why some adults who eat healthy and exercise still end up with some sort of non-inherited disease despite their best efforts. They may be healthy eaters now, but who knows what their parents fed them as children.

I practically lived off of Pizza Pockets and Pepsi during my teenage years. I hope I have good genes 😳.

It is not just the infancy and early childhood years that are crucial for long term health. The teenage years are also an important period of growth and maturation. A diet high in animal protein and low in vegetable protein and isoflavones is correlated with early puberty, which has been linked to metabolic syndrome, cardiovascular disease and breast cancer as well as other hormone-related cancers1. This is just another reason why feeding your kids McDonald’s regularly is bad for them. Today’s “fast food” diet is high in meat and low in vegetables which is a recipe for disease.

If you give your kids “junk” calories that means there is less room for nutritious calories. That unhealthy cookie you let your kid have as a snack every day (and most kids don’t stop at just one) could be replaced by a serving of fresh fruit. Children who consume more antioxidant-rich foods and whose mothers had an antioxidant-rich diet during pregnancy are less likely to have allergies later in life6. Since babies and children are growing, their brains, bodies and immune systems are still developing which is why they need all the nutrition they can get.

Children’s food preferences are determined by both genetics and familiarity2. So even though kids already have predetermined preferences for certain tastes and textures, they can also learn to prefer healthy foods simply by trying them frequently and watching the people around them eat the same foods as well7. These learned preferences carry on into adulthood; if you teach your kids to eat healthy at a young age they are more likely to continue eating healthy later on in life7.

I see other parents give their babies and young children junk food on a regular basis and it makes me cringe. Some of those kids have chronic rashes, allergies, and/or constant stomach upsets, probably due to their diets.
Unfortunately, those are just minor symptoms compared to the long-term damage that a bad diet early in life can lead to.

Some parents are simply unaware or uneducated about the implications of junk food on their kids. Some are perfectly aware but feel bad when their kids ask for the same food that they are eating and give in (which is exactly why parents should model healthy eating themselves). When kids ask to eat the same “junk food” as their peers it makes it that much harder to say no. Others simply don’t want to put in the extra effort required to prepare healthy food for their children as it is much easier to just open a wrapper or box when their kids are hungry.

Feeding kids healthy food is not easy. It takes more time and effort to prepare, not to mention the extra time actually feeding it to them if they are fussy eaters. But no one said being a parent was easy. And the reward of seeing your kids grow up to be happy and healthy adults is worth it.

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References

1. Cheng, Guo; Buyken, Anette E; Shi, Lijie; Karaolis-Danckert, Nadina; Kroke, Anja; Wudy, Stefan A; Degen, Gisela H; Remer, Thomas. Beyond overweight: nutrition as an important lifestyle factor influencing timing of puberty. Nutrition Reviews. Mar2012, Vol. 70 Issue 3, p133-152. 21p. 1 Diagram, 3 Charts, 3 Graphs. DOI: 10.1111/j.1753-4887.2011.00461

2. COOKE, L. The importance of exposure for healthy eating in childhood: a review. Journal of Human Nutrition & Dietetics. 20, 4, 294-301, Aug. 2007. ISSN: 09523871.

3. El-Wahab, Hanan Mohamed Fathy Abd; Moram, Gehan Salah El-Deen. Toxic effects of some synthetic food colorants and/or flavor additives on male rats. Toxicology & Industrial Health. Mar2013, Vol. 29 Issue 2, p224-232. 9p. 6 Charts. DOI: 10.1177/0748233711433935.

4. Hörnell, Agneta; Lagström, Hanna; Lande, Britt; Thorsdottir, Inga. Breastfeeding, introduction of other foods and effects on health: a systematic literature review for the 5th Nordic Nutrition Recommendations. Food & Nutrition Research. 2013, Vol. 57, p1-27. 27p. DOI: 10.3402/fnr.v57i0.20823

5. Lahiri, D. K.; Maloney, B.; Zawia, N. H. The LEARn model: an epigenetic explanation for idiopathic neurobiological diseases. Molecular Psychiatry. Nov2009, Vol. 14 Issue 11, p992-1003. 12p. 3 Diagrams, 1 Chart, 2 Graphs. DOI: 10.1038/mp.2009.82.

6. Patelarou, Evridiki; Giourgouli, Gianna; Lykeridou, Aikaterini; Vrioni, Evagelia; Fotos, Nikolaos; Siamaga, Eleni; Vivilaki, Victoria; Brokalaki, Hero. Association between biomarker-quantified antioxidant status during pregnancy and infancy and allergic disease during early childhood: A systematic review. Nutrition Reviews. Nov2011, Vol. 69 Issue 11, p627-641. 15p. 2 Diagrams, 3 Charts. DOI: 10.1111/j.1753-4887.2011.00445.

7. Venter, C.; Harris, G. The development of childhood dietary preferences and their implications for later adult health. Nutrition Bulletin. Dec2009, Vol. 34 Issue 4, p391-394. 4p. DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-3010.2009.01784

Food for thought: What is a healthy diet?

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Healthy diets have been proven to aid everything from weight loss to cancer treatment, while unhealthy diets have been linked to everything from ADHD to diabetes.

What most people think of when they hear the term “healthy diet” is low fat and low sugar. The new train of thought making its way into the mainstream is “simple ingredients, real food”. It has become the norm to look at nutrition labels to check the calories, fat, and sugar content of food; but we also need to check the ingredient list for artificial ingredients. If an item has a gazillion ingredients, half of which you can’t pronounce, IT’S NOT REAL FOOD! Granted, you may not be able to pronounce half the chemicals that make up a pear either, but pears are real food – “pear flavour” is not.

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Everything that you eat or drink either nourishes your body or harms it. Now that doesn’t mean that if you eat a doughnut you’re going to die. If you’re otherwise healthy, and you eat healthy most of the time, an occasional treat here or there won’t be the end of the world. The “good chemicals” in the abundant healthy food you eat will counteract the few “bad chemicals” you consume.

However, a lot of people don’t seem to understand the meaning of occasional.

A slice of cake once a week is occasional. A couple of cookies and an unhealthy muffin every single day is NOT occasional.

A drive-through meal once a month or so is occasional. A Big Mac combo meal a couple of times a week is NOT occasional.

A good tip for eating a healthy diet is not keeping unhealthy food in your house. When you’re really hungry and need a quick fix, you are more likely to grab something unhealthy if it is available. So simply don’t make it available at home. This will also force your kids to eat healthy snacks instead of junk food every day. Make sure you have lots of cut-up fruits and veggies in your fridge so the whole family can munch on something healthy in between meals.

Also, don’t go grocery shopping on an empty stomach, otherwise you’ll have an even harder time resisting all the convenient junk food on the shelves. I know when I’m really hungry I want to eat whatever is in sight, so I do my grocery shopping after having a meal or snack.

If you have a sweet tooth (✋☺️) and just can’t resist eating sweets, bake your own instead of eating store-bought pastries. That way there are no artificial flavours, colors or preservatives, and you can make “healthy” sweets by substituting all purpose flour with whole wheat or spelt, and replacing refined sugar with other sweeteners like honey or maple syrup.

The next time you eat something processed ask yourself, “is this real food?”