We have all done it, but it’s not our fault, it’s just the way we have been trained, it’s what we’re used to. We give treats as a reward for doing well or as incentive to do better and work harder. Schools pass out candy as a reward, we give treats to pacify our kids, we treat ourselves by choosing the drive-through or popping a package in the microwave for dinner rather than taking the time to prepare a home cooked meal. We have been establishing the connection that toxic treats are associated with something that is good for you because it is given when something good has been achieved.
And why wouldn’t we do this? The USDA, FDA, advertising executives and food manufacturers are telling us these treats are good for us. After all, they are saying it with big, bold, colorful characters and celebrities. They are telling us they have added fiber and vitamins, they are gluten free, sugar free or fat free, they are made from ‘natural’ ingredients; they help our children grow strong and healthy. Of course we believe it, these people wouldn’t intentionally be promoting things that are bad for us; would they? All of these claims are for marketing purposes, yes they may be true but the process to achieve them is to manipulate the ingredients to such a significant degree they no longer have any nutritional value at all, they provide a negative effect.
McDonald’s, Taco Bell and other fast foods are routinely given as a treat. This only reinforces the perception of it being good or even food, however you look at it. As our children grow and begin experiencing the stresses of life they look for ways to deal with that stress and what better way than to give yourself a treat. Treating ourselves often works; this is not a bad idea at all, it’s the form of treat we are choosing that is the bad idea. If we had been taught to go for a walk, play a game, have some quiet time, garden or cook and given some strawberries, a cup of blueberries or a handful of almonds instead of a pile of fries, candy or a popsicle; the adults of today would not be facing an epidemic of obesity, diabetes, depression, etc.
I wish I had known all that I know now back when my children were young. Their treats would be completely different today. They would provide actual health benefits, be packed with nutrition and not causing them harm. I remember taking my son to the doctor when he was in preschool due to disruptive behavior in the classroom. The doctor told me I could try changing his diet or put him on medication. I did not want to give him medication (actually narcotics), he was just too young. I also dismissed changing his diet because I felt it would be too difficult but also did not believe it would make a difference, I couldn’t see any sense in the idea. Anyway, it was so convenient to feed him processed and fast foods, sugary cereals, crackers and fruit flavored drinks. My ‘logical reasoning’ was that I was a single mother and it would be too much work. I did eventually choose the route of narcotic medication, I still regret this decision today.
I had a recent experience in the grocery store with a family member. A camping trip had been planned and treats for the children were being purchased; all of which were loaded with refined sugars, high fructose corn syrup, artificial sweeteners, hydrogenated fats, soy, synthetic food dyes, sodium, hormones, antibiotics and genetically modified ingredients. I was not making these purchases myself but I was along for the trip. As I watched the cart fill up, my disgust and rage with these items began growing out of control, I had to walk away as I felt about to explode. Unfortunately, I was not able to make any difference in the purchases and I felt awful about it. I hope this information will help you to make better choices for your children.
The following list of negative effects is usually associated with seniors, not children, but today there has been a dramatic increase in children suffering as well. Health issues from processed food ingredients:
• Refined sugars and HFCS (high fructose corn syrup) – kidney problems, obesity, diabetes, high cholesterol, joint pain and inflammation, cell die-off degrades DNA and RNA, cancer, compromised immune system (Dr. Gary Null; Sugar: Killing us Sweetly)
• Artificial sweeteners – desensitized sweetness receptors causing increasing need for more sweetness and intense cravings, kidney problems, obesity, diabetes, cancer, compromised immune system (Rebecca J. Brown, Mary Ann De Banate, and Kristina I. Rother; Artificial Sweeteners: A Systemic Review of Metabolic Effects in Youth)
• Hydrogenated fats – high cholesterol, reduces the body’s natural anti-inflammatory response, stunts the growth of vital organs and the brain (Dr. Barry Sears; Facts About Hydrogenated Fats and Oils), compromised immune system, diabetes, reduces the absorption of necessary nutrients, intense cravings
• Soy – thyroid disorders, endocrine and hormone disruption, fertility problems, digestive issues, cancer, brain damage, kidney stones, malnutrition (Dr. Joseph Mercola; The Dark Side of Soy)
• Synthetic food dyes – ADHD and behavioral issues, cancer, neurotoxin, bladder and thyroid tumors (Dr. Joseph Mercola; Are You and Your Family Eating Toxic Food Dyes? and Center for Science in Public Interest; Food Dyes – A Rainbow of Risks)
• Sodium – high quality, unprocessed salt has many health benefits; but highly degraded and processed salt is added excessively to processed foods creating intense cravings for more and more processed foods
• Hormones – increased risk of cancers, weight gain due to increased cortisol production causing the body to hold onto fat and distribute it around the organs, boys with moobs (Dr. Andrew Weil, MD)
• Antibiotics – the amount of antibiotics consumed in foods made from food producing animals is causing strains of resistant bacteria, thereby making it difficult to effectively treat an illness that would benefit from them. More frequent and increased doses are required in order to achieve results. This increased use is killing off the healthy bacteria our bodies need to maintain our immune system. (CDC, Antibiotic use in Food Producing Animals)
• GMO’s – liver damage, endocrine disruption, fertility issues, DNA changes, auto-immune disease, kidney disease, food allergies (Jeffery Smith; Responsibletechnology.org: GE Foods May Cause Rising Food Allergies)
Why do we consider feeding our children poison and toxins a treat? Why do we not see the beautiful and truly natural sweetness of a strawberry or the nutrition packed energy of a cucumber as a reward? How did it become so turned around that we view nutrition and health as low man on the totem pole? Ease and convenience are now our number one concern. Our children are paying a very high price for this.
The incidences of chronic illnesses in young children has sky rocketed over the last couple of decades.
For the first time ever the life expectancy of today’s children is expected to be less than the life expectancy of their parents. 1 in 3 children born in 2000 will develop diabetes in their lifetime. Cancer is the leading cause of death in children over 15, 50% of Americans are expected to contract cancer. Childhood obesity has tripled in the last 25 years. There have been dramatic increases in allergies, asthma, fatty liver disease (non alcohol related), ADHD and Autism. As of 2012 the life expectancy at birth of US children ranked 50th overall in the world. (CIA World Factbook)
US food companies add 15 million pounds of synthetic food dyes to the foods they produce. Approximately 80% of all antibiotics produced are used in meat and poultry production. That means the remaining 20% is used for the treatment of humans. US agriculture uses and estimated 1.2 billion pounds of herbicides and pesticides per year. Commercially produced seed companies control approximately 90% of our food supply and Monsanto and Dupont are the largest producers.
Profits are the only concern for the vast majority of food manufacturers. The health of our children doesn’t even rate a blip on their radar, at least in an impactful way. The only concern is that we are fooled into believing they care and the food is good for them. The FDA has approved all of the ingredients used to manufacture, process, cultivate and grow the food we eat. This has led to the misconception it must be healthy.
The amount of marketing dollars spent to entice our children with these products is astounding. It’s no wonder there are temper tantrums in the grocery aisles when we say no to sugary cereals. I dare you to find a child who has never heard of a fruit roll-up, yogurt or juice pouch, fruit loops or lucky charms, gummi worms, lunchable or snackable; the list of negative foods is huge. It’s criminal how these toxic treats are being marketed to our children who do not know any better. It’s our duty as parents to educate them, teach them the best choices for a healthy life now and into the future.
You can make nutritional changes in your home by making it fun for your children, including them in the preparation of food and choosing whole, unprocessed foods as treats; preferably organic to avoid pesticides and fertilizers. Help them to grow fruits and vegetables, children love to eat what they have tended. Become active in your child’s school to change the foods served and the rewards given for a job well done. There are so many wonderful programs to help jumpstart the changes in your children’s school: Farm to School, Food Corps, Lunchbox, Saladbars2schools, just to name a few.
Take charge now, start giving them the healthy childhood they deserve and teaching them the impactful lessons they can take into adulthood for a very long and healthy life. They can break the cycle with their own children one day and create a generation of health.