Sunday, December 6, 2009

Don't feed your kids out of a box.

Yesterday I was watching an episode of Glee on Hulu and I watched the following commercial for "Gerber Graduates Healthy Meals" with absolute HORROR:


So all you need to feed a child is a box of processed garbage and a microwave! How easy! I went to Gerber's website to investigate further, specifically checking out the "LIL’ ENTRÉES Dishes" for toddlers. Let's look at the ingredients, shall we?


Beef Ravioli:

WATER, GREEN BEANS, BEEF TOMATO RAVIOLI (ENRICHED DURUM FLOUR [DURUM WHEAT FLOUR, NIACIN, FERROUS SULFATE, THIAMIN MONONITRATE, RIBOFLAVIN, FOLIC ACID], WATER, SEASONED BEEF [BEEF, WATER, SEASONING {DEXTROSE, SALT, ONION}], WHOLE EGG, BLEACHED WHEAT FLOUR, PART SKIM RICOTTA CHEESE [WHEY, CREAM, VINEGAR, CARRAGEENAN], SALT, SOYBEAN OIL, DRIED EGG WHITES, BEEF STOCK FLAVOR [SALT, AUTOLYZED YEAST EXTRACT, POWDERED COOKED BEEF, BEEF FAT, GUAR GUM, CARAMEL COLOR, BEEF STOCK, XANTHAN GUM, LACTIC ACID, BEEF FLAVOR, BEEF EXTRACT, NATURAL FLAVOR], TOMATO POWDER, DEHYDRATED ONION, SUGAR, NATURAL TOMATO FLAVOR [MALTODEXTRIN, NATURAL FLAVOR, MODIFIED CORN STARCH], EXTRACTIVES OF ANNATTO [COLOR], GARLIC POWDER), TOMATO PUREE, TOMATO PASTE, COOKED SEASONED BEEF (BEEF, WATER, SALT), MODIFIED CORNSTARCH, SUGAR, ONIONS, OLIVE OIL, GARLIC, SALT, CHEDDAR CHEESE (CULTURED MILK, SALT, ENZYMES), WHEY, NATURAL FLAVOR.

Mashed Potatoes & Gravy with Roasted Chicken:

WATER, CARROTS, POTATOES, ROASTED WHITE CHICKEN MEAT (WHITE CHICKEN MEAT, WATER, SALT, MODIFIED CORNSTARCH, TAPIOCA STARCH), NONFAT MILK, BUTTER, CREAM, MALTODEXTRIN, MODIFIED CORNSTARCH, SALT, CHICKEN FLAVOR (CHICKEN BROTH, SALT, YEAST EXTRACT), SOYBEAN OIL, WHEAT FLOUR, CHICKEN FAT, SHORTENING POWDER (OLIVE OIL, MALTODEXTRIN, SODIUM CASEINATE, MONO- AND DIGLYCERIDES), MILK, AUTOLYZED YEAST EXTRACT, ONION POWDER, GARLIC POWDER, NATURAL FLAVOR, GUAR GUM, XANTHAN GUM, SPICES, CARAMEL COLOR, EGG YOLK SOLIDS.

Ok, and now for my rant. There's a real problem here that people will knowingly feed children heavily processed food out of a box, heated in a microwave. It's not real food. WHY would you feed this garbage to a child? Nothing says health like powdered cooked beef, caramel color, modified corn starch and shortening powder! How will these ingredients nourish and enrich a child? And how blind are people that Gerber actually would want to give your kids healthy meals? They want to make money. They want their "food" to be salty enough and tasty enough that the kid will be addicted and demand more of it.

I find this outrageous and damaging. And I'd like to know what you think. Does the "I don't have enough time" excuse warrant this sort of short-cut that short-changes the nutrition of growing children? Or is it setting children up for a palate that favors salty, processed food that will only intensify with age and lead to nutritionally bankrupt eating habits that will endure throughout life? What did you eat as a little kid? I ate some of whatever my Mom made for dinner for everyone... and it was all homemade, real food.

Marion Nestle, in her work, "What to Eat", says that children "should be eating the same healthy foods that everyone else in the family is eating - just less of them and with a few minor modifications: leave out the salt, sugars, and peppery spices; mash the foods or cut them into small pieces; and make sure the foods are well moistened so children will not choke on them. Children do not need added salt or sugars. They do not need soft drinks, juice drinks, desserts, candy, sweetened cereals, or fast food. And yes, they will eat 'adult' foods, the healthier kinds that grown-ups eat, if given the opportunity to eat such foods early and often. If you offer healthy foods, your children will have the chance to eat them. If you offer junk foods to your children, they will eat junk foods."

Here are just a few great resources for feeding everyone in your family real food:

Carolyn Cope feeds her family with real food. Her blog is Umami Girl.
Anne Marie feeds her toddler real food. Her blog is Cheeseslave.
Start a kid off right with Real Food for Mother and Baby by Nina Planck.
Marion Nestle writes the blog Food Politics. For more information about her book, "What to Eat", click here.

Let's talk about it.

7 comments:

  1. I love your blog. I keep processed food to a minimum at my house never feeding from boxes and rarely from cans (unless it's olives or something like that). My youngest asked for a spoon full of butter this morning as it's her candy. I wonder if there is anything wrong with a spoon full of butter occasionally for a three year old?

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  2. There's nothing wrong with that at all! It's probably because your daughter is craving the nutrients butter has. You should definitely check out "Why Butter is Better", an essay by Sally Fallon and Mary G. Enig on the Weston A. Price Foundation website. It's a wonderful resource and will give you insight as to why your daughter requested butter this morning!

    http://www.westonaprice.org/foodfeatures/butter.html

    Also, Organic Valley has started making pastured organic butter - it's a bit more expensive, but worth it! It's packaged in green foil and seems to be accessible everywhere.

    Thanks for checking out Eat More Butter!

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  3. diana! i just found this. LOVE it. xo jordan

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  4. Here's another one to make you crazy. Kellogg's has started advertising Froot Loops as good for you because they now have added fiber. How about the fact that the main ingredient is sugar? Or that the fats are all partially-hydrogenated transfats? I don't even want to get started on all that's wrong here. View the commercial:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Br3gdKguUx0&feature=player_embedded

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  5. I agree, this is TOTALLY "setting children up for a palate that favors salty, processed food." Without looking up the nutritional information in terms of amount of sodium, carbohydrates, fat, etc., it's hard to know specifics. But this is totally the problem in America, which is why we have such a raging epidemic of obesity, diabetes and heart disease. And the fact that it starts when kids are so young (and is MARKETED as being "healthy"!) means that the problem will continue to perpetuate.

    I was actually surprised, though, to see that the main ingredients are (gasp) vegetables. Yes, there are a few sinister-sounding ingredients (Guar gum?? caramel color?), but all in all, I guess that I was expecting it to be worse. Perhaps that speaks more to the cynnicism I have and less to what you're saying, which I totally agree with.

    Jamie brings up another example of how these monster companies are trying to manipulate people into thinking that junk food is healthy. It's like how so many companies are posing as "green" when they're not. It's all marketing and it makes me sick...
    -Alice

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  6. Of course it's wrong. It doesn't matter how much time you do or don't have. If a parent is that strapped, he or she can boil a chicken and steam a bag of frozen green beans. So many easy choices. Bah. I can't go on preaching to the converted.

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  7. Hi Diana, sorry it's taken me so long to chime in here. I don't think it's any secret that I strongly agree with everything you've said. My life this week has been even more full than usual of examples of highly processed foods being heavily marketed as health foods (check out the discussion here—prepare to be annoyed). All the worse when the marketing is targeted at young kids and their parents. I'm starting to think I may devote a bigger project to this topic at some point soon.

    Thanks for raising the issue!

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