Let’s Un-Process Our Children’s Food

26 May

Let’s Un-Process Our Children’s Food:

prepare everything from scratch and

eliminate processed foods as much as possible.

Organic Candy without High Fructose Corn Syrup... Is it better? (answer below)

Can a Vegetarian Diet be BAD?

I ‘got’ it. I was vegetarian in high school and college because I learned that a plant-based diet was better for my health and for the planet.  But on a vegetarian diet, I was sluggish and gained at least 20 pounds in my first semester of college.  Even my own mother didn’t recognize me at the airport when she came to pick me up for Christmas break.  I had to stand right in front of her, wave my hands before her eyes and say “Hi!”  It is definitely not a fond homecoming memory.

I confess I did go a little food crazy in college. Sugar-coated cereal for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Countless dining hall visits for Ranch dressing, Honey Mustard dressing, Mayonnaise, American cheese melts, Pesto Pasta, cookies, ice cream with sprinkles galore at the dining hall. I also got a job at the Student Center Cafe, thinking I would learn how to cook for myself.  Well, I didn’t learn a thing.  The only thing I did learn was how to use the griddle and fryer, slap flat foods together to make sandwiches and slice tomatoes.  Everything else was pre-packaged and pre-made somewhere else. Looking back, I realize that most of the food I bought or ate or touched were highly processed foods – not whole foods.

A Processed Culture

I understand why we are attracted to ready-made convenience foods: they do not require much work or energy.  We want food NOW without having to work for it.  We want to be healthy but we don’t want to put the effort into actually preparing our meals directly from whole foods.  We want things EASY.

The thing is though, like most things, it requires work on our part to get something really worth anything.  Nutrition is no exception – plant-based or not.

The Difference

Consider this: When a fruit or vegetable is 5 days old, it will contain only 40% of it’s original nutrients.  How about processed foods with long shelf-lives?

Plant-based whole-foods are fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts and seeds.  They are in their natural state and are not packaged, canned, bottled or boxed.  Most of the time, you can eat them fresh (washed or not) or they may require some time and attention (cleaning, prepping, dressing/marinating, cooking).

Processed foods, on the other hand, require little time and attention.  Most are ready to eat as is (junk food) or require some cooking (frozen dinners).  They are foods that have been so drastically altered from their natural state.  They are anything canned, boxed, bottled and packaged.  They are foods that are full of preservatives, artificial flavors and artificial coloring. They include anything refined (like white flours and sugars), any hydrogenated fats, any processed meats, anything with soy fillers, artificial food grade chemicals and additives.  

Plant-based processed foods are a whole niche market dedicated to serving ready made Veggie Meats and Veggie Dairy to vegans and vegetarians.  Unfortunately, these are highly processed foods too, containing especially high amounts of soy (most of which is genetically modified).

What’s The Big Deal?

Although we call them ‘food’, processed foods are not readily recognized by the bodyThey are seen as alien matter and our white blood cells will be on attack mode as soon as they enter our system.  Processed foods create toxins in our systems and cause degenerative diseases.  For our planet, processed foods require more energy and packing material.  Most of all, processed foods create more waste.

What’s more? 75% of all processed foods contain genetically modified ingredients – even foods labeled organic!  Of all seeds planted in the US, 93% of all soy, 86% of all corn and 93% of all canola seeds are genetically modified. According to Monica Eng of the Los Angeles Times, their bi-products “have become such common ingredients in processed foods that even one of the nation’s top organic food retailers says it hasn’t been able to avoid stocking some products that contain them.” People are generally unaware of foods containing GMOs: only 26% of Americans think they have eaten anything genetically modified and only 28% believed genetically modified ingredients were sold in stores.

The Ills of GMO

There has not been a long-term human study conducted to prove genetically modified organisms are safe.  A peer-reviewed paper GM Crops – Just The Science by The Non-GMO Project states that genetically modified ingredients:

  • “can be toxic, allergenic or less nutritious than their natural counterparts
  • can disrupt the ecosystem, damage vulnerable wild plant and animal populations and harm biodiversity
  • increase chemical inputs (pesticides, herbicides) over the long term
  • deliver yields that are no better, and often worse, than conventional crops
  • cause or exacerbate a range of social and economic problems
  • are laboratory-made and, once released, harmful GMOs cannot be recalled from the environment.”

Repercussions: Our Children’s Health

Studies have shown that processed foods are contributing to our children’s emotional and/or health disorders.  Recently, processed foods have been shown to adversely affect our children’s intelligence.  And yet, processed foods are still everywhere: in home kitchens, restaurants, cafeterias, and worse of all, they are used as gifts and rewards for children.

A few months ago, my friend Christina told me her children’s teacher at school was still giving Potato Chip parties every Friday for the best performing student of the week.  The kids also received daily Candy Rewards for good behavior.  My niece Lia is only in preschool and candy rewards are there too.  And it doesn’t end at school.  There are always boxed juices, frosted cupcakes and pinatas full of more candy at birthday parties. Doctors visits end with lollipops. People who want to do good, like Cookies for Cancer, raise money for cancer research by selling cookies with vegetable shortening, white sugar, sweetened condensed milk, packaged refrigerated cookie dough and Angel Coconut Flakes. Then there is Easter Bunnies, then Halloween Trick or Treating, then Holiday Sweets…  These are all occasions for highly processed foods with genetically modified soy, corn and canola products no doubt.

What adults are essentially saying to children is “You are so good!  Here’s some junk food that causes disease!” Why does our culture encourage this shameful and imbalanced exchange? Is it correct to reward our good children with processed foods containing empty calories and zero nutrients?  Is it right that we give them foods that negatively affect their future health?  Is it acceptable that by rewarding with these processed foods that children will be more resistant to eating whole foods?  Is it suitable that we are allowing children to crave junk foods by using them as rewards? According to Joanne Ikeda, a nutrition education specialist highly regarded for her work on childhood obesity, these are all the factors why foods (especially candy) must not be used as rewards for good behavior.

What’s A Mama To Do?

After a whole year of my son pestering me for the same lollipops he’s seen other kids eating (“Mama, REAL lollipops not my Banana Lollipops“), I finally ran out of distraction tactics or maybe he just wore me down.  So the other day, this Raw Vegan Mama succumbed to buying organic processed lollies for her son.  He’s only allowed 1 a week, which he rarely remembers and hubby and I conveniently forget to remind him.  The top 3 ingredients are: organic evaporated cane juice, organic tapioca syrup and organic rice syrup.  Not bad, no high-fructose corn syrup at least.  But all 3 ingredients are still processed foods. I sigh – almost defeated.  If you’ve read Is Sugar Toxic? you wouldn’t want your children to consume any kind of processed sugars either.

Resources on Plant-Based Whole Foods Diet

Blue Vinyl, The China Study, The Cove, Diet For A New AmericaFood Matters, Forks Over Knives, Mad Cowboy

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16 Responses to “Let’s Un-Process Our Children’s Food”

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Cinnamon Donut Holes « - May 28, 2011

    [...] one to encourage processed foods in my house, I scramble and come up with these Cinnamon Donut Holes tonight.  Son was happy I had [...]

  2. Half Raw and Half Cooked: Curried Apple and Quinoa Salad « - June 3, 2011

    [...] is a Curried Apple and Quinoa Salad recipe.  Instead of using processed mayonnaise, I use nutritious coconut to create the creamy sauce and to enhance the flavor of curry. [...]

  3. Robyn O’Brien’s Patriotism on a Plate « - June 5, 2011

    [...] As I watch Robyn O’Brien, I am impressed by her work, how many people she’s reaching out to and how many diets she may be changing for the better.  Listen to her TED video full of real facts and figures about what’s happening to the American Plate.  These are all the reasons to Un-Process Our Children’s Food! [...]

  4. Let’s Un-Process Our Children’s Food. « - June 7, 2011

    [...] 7 juni 2011 Door – ascleses – vindt deze informatie belangrijk om met u te delen- Let's Un-Process Our Children's Food: prepare everything from scratch and eliminate processed foods as much as possible. Can a Vegetarian Diet be BAD? I 'got' it. I was vegetarian in high school and college because I learned that a plant-based diet was better for my health and for the pl … Read More [...]

  5. Raw Applesauce for Vegan Baking « - June 10, 2011

    [...] Ariel, good news!  Raw applesauce does WORK as a substitute for oils in quick bread recipes.  As an experiment, I baked Vegan Blueberry Muffins and Vegan Zucchini Bread this morning with raw applesauce.  I got excellent results!  We have company today and the 12 pieces of Blueberry Muffins are already gone  and only half of the Zucchini Bread is left. Not only did I have the chance to tell everyone about Vegan foods, but what a great way to further Un-Process our food! [...]

  6. Top 10 Questions on the Raw Vegan Diet « - June 17, 2011

    [...] UN-PROCESSED foods is what is important to me and my family. In getting rid of all the processed foods in our pantry, it made sense to increase foods that were at the other end of the spectrum: raw, fresh, organic, in-season fruits and vegetables.  For the past 2 years, my husband and son opted to eat at least 50% Raw Vegan Foods, with the other 50% cooked whole foods made from scratch.  I am on my 3rd year as a Raw Vegan (about 100%) and although I feel great, I am now contemplating adding more cooked whole Vegan foods into my diet.  Like I state below a few times, in my opinion, it would be a better choice to eat a plain steamed sweet potato than a big piece of raw cheese cake loaded with cashews and sweetener.  Also, some foods just taste better when they are slightly cooked (artichokes for example).  And some foods are not toxic when cooked (raw green beans were horrible for me for example).  However, on the whole, it is important for people to consider adding more RAW fruits and vegetables into their family’s diets because of the added nutritional and health benefits.  To help you understand what we have learned about adding more Raw Vegan Foods into our diets, here are the top 10 questions we get asked regularly. [...]

  7. Seven Questions with Mama in the Kitchen | Square Magazine - June 23, 2011

    [...] Get rid of everything processed in your kitchen and in your diet. This means anything canned, packaged in bags, frozen dinners, junk food and [...]

  8. Raw Blueberry Bars « - June 26, 2011

    [...] about really nutritious, fresh, un-processed, Raw Pop Tarts or Raw Cereal Bars or Raw Fig Newtons?  Either for breakfast, a snack or a dessert, [...]

  9. Raw Blueberry Bars « Carolina Farm Stewardship Association - June 28, 2011

    [...] Carissa Leventis-Cox Thinking about really nutritious, fresh, un-processed, raw pop tarts or raw cereal bars or raw fig Newtons? Either for breakfast, a snack or a dessert, [...]

  10. Can A Vegetarian Diet Be Bad? « Natural Child World - July 1, 2011

    [...] Carissa, Mama’s In The Kitchen: [...]

  11. Why Is The Sugar Always Sweeter On The Other Side? « - July 5, 2011

    [...] something I struggle with.  Can I sleep at night knowing I have served my son foods with dioxins, GMO products, allergens and other toxins that negatively affect his future [...]

  12. Q&A with Vegan Mama, Chef, Restauranteur and Author of Vegan Family Meals: Ann Gentry « - July 6, 2011

    [...] I am all for ‘un-processing‘ my family’s food and making everything from scratch, so many Vegan ready-made products [...]

  13. Do We Have To Love What We Eat? « - July 12, 2011

    [...] for me.  When my family does eat out, I secretly cringe when my hubby and son order Sweet Tea (corn syrup! yikes!), Shrimp Tempura (mercury! hydrogenated oil!), a Hamburger (not-organic meat! hormones! [...]

  14. Do We Have To Love What We Eat? | Glam-o-Mamas - July 19, 2011

    [...] for me.  When my family does eat out, I secretly cringe when my hubby and son order Sweet Tea (corn syrup! yikes!), Shrimp Tempura (mercury! hydrogenated oil!), a Hamburger (not-organic [...]

  15. Peace @ the Healthy Table: What Does It Take? « - July 28, 2011

    [...] a 4th of July celebration this year, I realized that in in promoting fruits, greens, unrefined and un-processed foods at home, I had inadvertently created a little processed food junkie who, when away from home, [...]

  16. Animal Protein versus Plant Protein « - May 29, 2012

    [...] As I have said before, I understand why people are attracted to refined and processed vegan foods: they do not require much work or energy. We want to be healthy but we don’t want to put that much effort into actually preparing our meals directly from whole foods. We want things EASY. Consider this though: When a fruit or vegetable is 5 days old, it will contain only 40% of it’s original nutrients. How about refined plant foods? [...]

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