The food we feed our kids

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May 17, 2012 by Carin

In the past few weeks I have read a few articles online or in the paper about people suing food producers for making food items they feel are not nutritious and have been advertised to be healthy or have been led to believe is made of healthy food.  The first article I read was about a woman who sued Nutella for millions of dollars.  She said that their advertising led her to believe that a product made of hazelnuts and cocoa was a nutritious way to start her 4 year olds day.  Then over the weekend I read an article in the Sunday paper about a woman suing General Mills because Fruit Roll-Ups didn’t contain actual fruit as the name implies, but rather fruit juice.  Both of these lawsuits make me angry for so many reasons, but here are a few. 

One, it seems to me that people are putting all their trust in advertising and not taking it upon themselves to read labels and make decision based on what they deem to be healthy.  I mean really, what about hazelnuts and cocoa sounds nutritious?  If they woman suing Nutella would have read the label on the jar, she would have realized that the contents have very similar calorie, fat and sugar levels to peanut butter (from my personal comparison).   Now, I don’t feel peanut butter is a horrible for my kids, but I wouldn’t call it a nutritious breakfast staple either.  I read the label, still bought the Nutella, but use is more as a treat or dessert item.  I would never fault Nutella for trying to sell their product as a peanut butter alternative for breakfast, but I also wouldn’t put blind faith in their advertising. 

Second, just because a product has a particular word in the product name, doesn’t mean it is what you want it to be.  For example, the Fruit Roll-ups have fruit in the name, but I, from having eaten then as a kid, would never expect them to have whole fruit in them or even to be made with fruit.  They are a sugary, sticky fruit flavored flat piece of sweetness rolled up to be fun for kids to eat.  They are made with pear juice, as the article I read stated, but they are not manufactured from whole fruit.  I would personally never expect a fruit roll up to be made from whole fruit and would find the answer to my assumption on the label on the back of the box.  How many on the market have a word in the name that implies nutrition, but really is a only there to win us over and beat out the competition.

Do I feed my kids food that isn’t nutritious?   Yes.  We have some food staples in our house that we know aren’t great choices for our kids, but we don’t feed them to our kids every day.  For example we buy Veggie Straws and we all love them.  Yes, they are made from vegetables and are lower in fat and calories than traditional potato chips, but we also don’t consider them a replacement for sticks for carrots or peppers.  We treat them a as a weekend treat or something special to have some of.  But, never would I consider them a nutritional alternative to a real vegetable.

As consumers, we need to educate ourselves about what we feed our children.  Read the ingredient list and the nutritional content info on the back of the packaging.   If an item seems too good to be true, it probably is.  Yes, it is okay to purchase some fun food items for our kids, but we need to realize there is no substitute for a real apple or a handful of blueberries.   What we put in our children’s mouths is our responsibility and that responsibility should not be left up to the companies that create our food.  We as consumers need to question what is nutritious and healthy for our children.  We don’t need to sue companies because what they deem to be “fruit” or “nutritious” isn’t, they are in the market to sell product, not make decisions for our families.  But rather we need to make decisions based on what you want to serve your children and meets your guidelines for healthy.   If you find a food item you have been purchasing isn’t what you thought, stop buying it.  The less an item is bought by consumers, the less likely you will see it on the shelf later on.  People need to stop putting blind faith in food manufactures and start educating themselves to help make better food decisions.  Nothing replaces the real thing (in this case whole fruit, vegetables, grains, etc.) so people need stop pretending it does.

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