The talk about sugary drinks is back in the news again, and with good reason. Many of us have heard the statistic in the news that a 12 oz can of cola can contain 9 to 11 teaspoons of sugar! Go ahead and see for yourself just how much that is. To help you get a better visual - the image to the left is from a middle school science project. It has been posted all over the web as a shining example of why we must Rethink What we Drink.
At Red Rabbit we want you to understand at least on a basic level why high sugar content of any kind is not good for your body and what options are available to you. So we are re-posting one of our most popular blogs by our Program Development Director Shari Mermelstein, RD.
Ever wonder why the typical salad dressing aisle in the grocery store has hundreds (yes,hundreds) of choices? It’s because the ingredients and chemical combinations offered by most dressing manufacturers are almost infinite! Making your own salad dressing is much cheaper and certainly much healthier. Here are 5 reasons you might want to reconsider that store bought salad dressing:
In a 2007 study, children ages 3 to 9 who consumed fruit drinks with added artificial colors and/or sodium benzoate for a week, showed increases in hyperactivity. There have also been a multitude of other studies linking artificial colorings and preservatives to ADD/ADDHD (attention deficit disorder/hyperactivity disorder).
These food additives are found in breakfast cereals, cakes, candies, pork sausage, gelatin desserts, soft drinks, juices, ice cream, cheese, butter, pasta and even Maraschino cherries. Check out the studyhere!
At Red Rabbit, we are advocates for whole foods rather than processed foods, especially for our kids. We feel strongly that food that comes directly from the farm, prepared with as few processes as possible and ends on the table are better for our bodies, but why?
In an effort to accommodate population growth as well as leverage modern manufacturing technology, much of the foods Americans used to grow and eat have been replaced by packaged and processed foods found in stores. Food manufacturing companies spend millions of dollars marketing to us to try and win our wallets and our taste buds. Though these processed foods last longer and taste sweeter, what are the unintended consequences to our health and wellness?
You may find it as unbelievable as I did that three common food additives that show up in many ‘kid friendly’ foods are actually very harmful:
In a 2007 study, artificial colors and/or sodium benzoate preservative increased hyperactivity in 3 and 8/9 year olds when consumed. These food additives are found in cakes, candies, pork sausage, gelatin desserts, soft drinks, juices, ice cream, cheese, butter, pasta and even Maraschino cherries. Check out the study here!
If we aren’t diligent about checking the ingredients in the foods we serve our children, we could be inadvertently giving them food known to cause cancer and hyperactive behaviors such as inattention, impulsivity and over activity. And these three chemicals are just examples of many manufactured additives now found in factory produced food.
It's time to start talking about solutions, not only the problems. I believe we can have an impact on the issues facing our society regarding healthy food in schools and the obesity epidemic if we focus on both ends of the spectrum—the bottom-up local grass roots level and the top down regulatory and government level.
From the top:
We live in a country where USDA nutrition standards consider (using only a few examples here) pizza and French fries as vegetables—which means they can be served to our school-aged children every day of the week. If that is the standard that we set; if the bar is set at that low a level, then kids are far from safe. No one can re-invent the system overnight, but parents and educators need to step up and say, “this is not helping our children and it must change.”
Here is another awful oversight in our current system: refined foods. None of the school nutrition standards in place today address those at all. Until Congress changes the guidelines, large companies will not change what they serve. We all know pesticides, chemicals and preservatives are horrifically bad for us—as kids and adults. Yet, we treat all fruits and vegetables the same. Do you think peaches that were grown on a farm 50 miles away and picked yesterday have the same nutritional value as those that were picked 6 months ago, shipped half way around the world, dumped into a sugary syrup (most likely high fructose corn syrup) and canned? Take a look at the typical school lunch fare and you will find more of the latter than the former.
Studies have shown that food dyes and other additives can increase hyperactivity and cause other behavioral problems; children who ate fast food three or more times per week performed lower on standardized tests in reading and math. Today, Red Rabbit is successfully bringing healthy meals to thousands of school children across the Greater New York Area every day, with great results.
Though I think the Let's Move Campaign is a terrific first attempt at setting a good example, we need to go further and deeper into the system to make wellness, fitness and healthy food options something all kids—of all socioeconomic backgrounds—have access to.