Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Unhealthy Lunches and Snacks - Stop the Madness!

I often wonder how seemingly educated, smart and sophisticated grocery shoppers (that includes you, too, Dads) get sucked up in the commercial marketing of unhealthy foods. Really? Do grocery shoppers not already know to steer clear of virtually everything in the middle aisles of the market? Have you been living under a rock?

I can't stand the commercials or advertisements for kids' food. Hate 'em. Marketers know that parents are pressed for time. They know we have busy schedules and lots of lunches to pack. So, they appeal to our need for speed. According to the perpetrators of the marketing madness, the faster we can open a box and plop out a meal the better. The problem is, these meals are not good for us and these products are making us sick.

Magazines include Wal-Mart ads which appeal to our sense of "saving money." The ad says that for less than $1 or two you can feed your family breakfast. You can shove a plain, white bagel down your kid's throat along with some OJ and voila! A healthy and low-cost breakfast! Shame on you Wal-Mart. Parents, can't you offer a healthier alternative and toast a slice of whole-grain bread, add a dollop of natural (no sugar added) peanut butter and include a glass of milk for breakfast? Does it really take that much more time or cost that much more money? I don't think so.

Day after day I see kids with unhealthy lunches. It makes me lose my appetite. The problem is, it's not the kid's fault his lunch is unhealthy. His parents are basically teaching his palette to rely on added sugars and modified foods to satisfy him. He doesn't know any better yet he will pay for this unhealthy practice for the rest of his life when he won't really want to eat anything that isn't sweetened. We owe it to our kids to take a more responsible approach to eating.

Here are some examples:

  • Lunchables. Really? You need to buy processed, packaged food with a long list of artificial flavors, partially hydrogenated oils, high fructose corn syrup and more for your kid's lunchbox? These products have no business being marketed as lunches for kids. Why not choose lunchmeat with no preservatives or artificial ingredients (Dietz & Watson, Boorshead, etc), whole grain crackers , and a piece of fruit instead? It's not that hard.
  • PB&J Uncrustables. Parents, you need to buy a PB&J sandwich? One with upwards of 25 different ingredients, some of which you can't even pronounce? You can't make a PB&J sandwich on whole-grain bread with natural (no sugar added) peanut butter and natural fruit preserves? C'mon. Isn't your children's health more important to you?
  • Applesauce. On the surface, applesauce looks like a good choice. But when you add a flavor like Cinnamon/Strawberry/Raspberry, etc. you add unnecessary ingredients like high-fructose corn syrup. Why? Applesauce is naturally sweet. Without added sugar. If you want a flavor added to natural applesauce why not sprinkle your own cinnamon or puree your own strawberries. It's not that hard, really.
  • Fruit Juice. The epitome of wasted calories. Sure, some fruit juices are 100% juice and, boy, those marketers love to appeal to your sense of "wholesome" and "nutrient-packed." If it's 100% juice that is high in Vitamin C it has to be good, right? But why not get more bang-for-your-buck and offer up a whole apple instead? Your kids get the benefit of a serving or more of fruit, with added fiber from the apple peel. Don't give your kids juice, give them an actual piece of fruit instead. And, make sure they are drinking water (which they probably need more of anyway) or milk for lunch.
  • Granola Bars. Snacks like Kudos which advertise "excellent source of calcium" and "made with whole grains" try to suck you into the "granola is healthy" mentality. Don't be fooled. With five different listings for sugar and hydrogenated oils to boot, these are not healthy snacks, they are candy bars. Do parents really think that granola bars with M&M's, Chocolate chips or Snickers is a "healthy" choice? Really? If you want to give your kid a candy bar, just admit it and quit trying to pass a Kudos granola bar off as a healthy snack.
  • Go-Gurt. Sounds like a great idea...yogurt on the go! Yogurt is a nutritious snack, right? Not this yogurt. It has more sugar per ounce than a can of Coca-Cola. The problem is there isn't one but two sugar sources listed in the first five ingredients. Both Sugar and
    High-Fructose Corn Syrup. Is this necessary? Nope. Get your kids off Go-Gurt for good! Try Stoneyfield Farms brand instead. Yes, sugar is listed as the second ingredient, but it is a natural source of sugar that isn't processed. The sugar ratio per ounce is much less than Go-gurt and not artificial colors or flavors are included.
Please stop making poor food choices. Please read food labels. Stay away from high-fructose corn syrup, added sugar and partially hydrogenated oils. Use real, whole foods not processed, artificial, fake foods.

Some great places to search for easy recipes for lunches and/or snacks are:

Check them out, print off a recipe or two and see how easy (and satisfying) it can be to make a good, healthy lunch or snack.

It's really, truly, is not rocket science.


traduda said...

OMG Kim, I love this post! As you know, I'm a freak about food. You just said exactly how I feel about school snacks and lunches! This is a HUGE deal! I hope people start to make changes, it's ridiculous how poorly fed children are. And there is NO excuse. :) Good work on this! Love it!

Kim Murray said...

Tracy, I know we are of the same mindset on this. If you and I can do it, other mothers can too!

Patti said...

Hi Kim, I was hoping you could comment on school lunches!! OMG, they are terrible. And to top it off, our school started offering a carbonated juice - oh la la the new thing to buy at $1 a can. I was in there has 34g sugar in a 12 ounce can....might as well just give the kids a can of coca cola! Those little bodies don't need all that sugar!!


Patti said...

Kim, I forwarded your message on to a friend of mine in Commerce. Her son is dealing with Tics (tourettes) right now and alot of it has to do with diet. So she read your message and is in tears that you have helped her. She has gone to the websites you recommended and is so grateful for this info. Keep up the good work!!!



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