We all have, but it’s not our fault, it’s just the way we’ve been trained, it’s what we’re used to. We give treats as a reward for doing well or as an incentive to do better and work harder. Schools hand out candy as rewards, we give out treats to pacify our children, we treat ourselves by choosing self-service or microwaving a packet for dinner instead of taking the time to prepare a home-cooked meal. We have been making the connection that toxic treats are associated with something that is good for you because they are given when something good has been accomplished.
And why wouldn’t we do this? The USDA, FDA, advertising executives, and food manufacturers tell us that these treats are good for us. After all, they say it with big, bold, and colorful characters and celebrities. They tell us that they have added fiber and vitamins, that they are gluten-free, sugar-free, and fat-free, that they are made with ‘natural’ ingredients; They help our children grow up strong and healthy. Of course we believe it, these people would not be intentionally promoting things that are bad for us; they? All of these claims are for marketing purposes, yes they may be true, but the process to achieve them is manipulating the ingredients to such a significant degree that they no longer have any nutritional value and produce a negative effect.
McDonald’s, Taco Bell and other fast foods are commonly given as a gift. This only reinforces the perception that it is good or even food, whichever way you look at it. As our children get older and begin to experience the stresses of life, they look for ways to deal with that stress and what better way than to treat themselves. Treating ourselves often works; this is not a bad idea at all, it is the way of dealing that we are choosing that is the bad idea. If only we were taught to go for a walk, play a game, have some quiet time, garden, or cook and were given a few strawberries, a cup of blueberries, or a handful of almonds instead of a stack of potato chips, candy, or an ice lolly; today’s adults would not be facing an epidemic of obesity, diabetes, depression, etc.
I wish I had known everything I know now when my children were little. His treats would be completely different today. They would provide real health benefits, be packed with nutrition, and do no harm to you. I remember taking my son to the doctor when he was in preschool for disruptive behavior in the classroom. The doctor told me that he could try to change his diet or give him medication. He didn’t want to give her medicine (actually, narcotics), he was too young. I also ruled out changing his diet because I felt it would be too difficult, but I also didn’t think it would make a difference, I couldn’t see any point in the idea. Still, it was very convenient to feed him fast and processed 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 eventually chose the narcotic medication route, I still regret this decision to this day.
I had a recent grocery store experience with a family member. A camping trip had been planned and treats were being bought for the children; all of which were packed with refined sugars, high fructose corn syrup, artificial sweeteners, hydrogenated fats, soy, synthetic food colors, sodium, hormones, antibiotics, and genetically modified ingredients. I was not making these purchases myself, but was present on the trip. As I watched the cart fill up, my disgust and anger with these items began to get out of control, I had to walk away because I felt like I was about to explode. Unfortunately, I couldn’t make any difference to the purchases and I felt really bad about it. I hope this information helps you make better decisions for your children.
The following list of negative effects is generally associated with the elderly, not children, but today there has also been a dramatic increase in the suffering of children. Health Concerns From Processed Food Ingredients:
• Refined sugars and HFCS (high fructose corn syrup): kidney problems, obesity, diabetes, high cholesterol, joint pain and inflammation, cell death that degrades DNA and RNA, cancer, compromised immune system (Dr. Gary Null;Sugar: Killing us sweetly)
• Artificial sweeteners: desensitized sweetness receptors leading to an increased 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 on Hydrogenated Fats and Oils), compromised immune system, diabetes, reduces absorption of nutrients, intense cravings
• Soy: thyroid disorders, endocrine and hormonal disorders, fertility problems, digestive problems, cancer, brain damage, kidney stones, malnutrition (Dr. Joseph Mercola; The Dark Side of Soy)
• Synthetic Food Dyes: ADHD and Behavioral Problems, Cancer, Neurotoxins, Bladder and Thyroid Tumors (Dr. Joseph Mercola; Do You and Your Family Eat Toxic Food Dyes? and Center for Science in the Public Interest; Food Dyes: A Rainbow of risks)
• Sodium – High-quality, raw salt has many health benefits; but highly degraded and processed salt is excessively added to processed foods creating intense cravings for more and more processed foods
• Hormones: increased risk of cancer, weight gain due to increased production of cortisol which causes the body to retain fat and distribute it around the organs, children with breasts (Dr. Andrew Weil, MD)
• Antibiotics: The amount of antibiotics consumed in foods made from food-producing animals is causing resistant strains of bacteria, making it difficult to effectively treat a disease that would benefit from them. More frequent and increased doses are required to achieve results. This increased use is killing off the healthy bacteria our bodies need to maintain our immune systems. (CDC, Antibiotic Use in Food-Producing Animals)
• GMOs: liver damage, endocrine disruption, fertility problems, DNA changes, autoimmune diseases, kidney disease, food allergies (Jeffery Smith; Responsibletechnology.org: GE Foods May Cause Rising Food Allergies)
Why do we consider feeding poison and toxins to our children a pleasure? Why don’t we see the beautiful and truly natural sweetness of a strawberry or the nourishing power of a cucumber as a reward? How did it get so invested that we see nutrition and health as a low man on the totem pole? Ease and comfort are now our main concern. Our children are paying a heavy price for this.
The incidence of chronic disease in young children has skyrocketed in the past two decades.
For the first time in history, the life expectancy of today’s children is projected 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. More than 15.50% of Americans are expected to get 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 American children ranked 50th overall in the world. (CIA World Fact Book)
American food companies add 15 million pounds of synthetic food coloring to the food they produce. Approximately 80% of all antibiotics produced are used in meat and poultry production. That means that the remaining 20% is used for the treatment of humans. US agriculture uses an estimated 1.2 billion pounds of herbicides and pesticides per year. Commercially produced seed companies control approximately 90% of our food supply with Monsanto and Dupont being the largest producers.
Profit is the only concern for the vast majority of food manufacturers. The health of our children doesn’t even have a blip on their radar, at least in a shocking way. The only concern is that they fool us into thinking they care and that the food is good for them. The FDA has approved all the ingredients used to manufacture, process, grow, and produce the food we eat. This has led to the misconception that it must be healthy.
The amount of marketing dollars spent to engage our children with these products is staggering. It’s no wonder there are tantrums in the supermarket aisles when we say no to sugary cereals. I challenge you to find a child who has never heard of a fruit roll-up, yogurt or juice bag, fruit rings or lucky charms, gummy worms, lunches or snacks; the list of negative foods is huge. It’s criminal how these toxic treats are marketed to our children who don’t know any better. It is our duty as parents to educate them, teach them the best options for a healthy life now and in the future.
You can make nutritional changes at home by making it fun for your children by including them in food preparation and choosing whole, unprocessed foods as treats; preferably organic to avoid pesticides and fertilizers. Help them grow fruits and vegetables, children love to eat what they have taken care of. Be active at your child’s school in changing the food served and the rewards given for a job well done. There are so many wonderful programs to help drive change at your child’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 teach them the powerful lessons they can take into adulthood for a long and healthy life. They can break the cycle with their own children one day and create a healthy generation.