Protect Your Family From Food Additives

Last week, I participated in a healthy living webinar called "Inspiring Health with Robyn O'Brien" which was presented by MOPs and Stonyfield Organic.  It was an informative session about the additives in the food we eat and how, particularly as mothers, we can protect our family's health by making smart food choices. 

Stonyfield Organic

Robyn O'Brien shared some personal stories, including how her youngest daughter had an allergic reaction to breakfast foods that most of us feed our families every day (eggs, waffles and a tube of blue yogurt).   After a frantic trip to the pediatrician, Robyn started on a journey to educate herself about America's food supply and the growing number of additives in the processed foods we feed our family.  Here is a link to the recording of Robyn's entire presentation. 

From the webinar, I learned that the most common additives in America include; high fructose corn syrup, artificial colors & dyes, artificial sweeteners, artificial growth hormones, genetically modified proteins and exceeding levels of pesticides.  Feeding your family foods with these additives and fruits and vegetables exposed to chemical pesticides can lead to an increased risk of food allergies, hyperactivity and even cancers. 

Take milk for example, which is the most common food allergy in the US.  Most of us give our children milk every day.  Yet Robyn learned that starting in 1994, the cows that produce the milk we drink have been injected with artificial grown hormones that had not yet been proven safe. 

As a busy working mom, I did not want to hear that I was feeding my family all the wrong foods and I needed to make drastic changes immediately.  Trying to balance a healthy life with the real life demands of my family is the heart and soul of Food and Fitness 4 Real, which is why one of my favorite quotes by Robyn during the 1 hour webinar was...

"Change Does Not Happen Overnight"

The first and easiest switch that Robyn made was to start buying organic milk.  If a product is labeled USDA Organic, by law it is not allowed to contain any artificial additives.  Because the demand for organic milk has increased in recent years, you can now find organic options at your local grocery store. 

The next step for Robyn was to start feeding her family less fake food.  She started cutting out foods with colors & dyes, artificial flavorings, and high fructose corn syrup.   

(4 Real: Start reading the ingredient labels of the snack in your pantry.  You will find these additives in the fruit snacks, neon colored yogurt, lunchables and snack packs your kids eat.)  Robyn knew her kids would not give up their artificially flavored mac-n-cheese overnight, so she started cutting back on the amount of the neon orange "cheese" powder that she added to the pasta until she could just serve them real noodles. 

"Make Progress, Not Perfection"

Trying to make a major overhaul of your kids diet will probably result in a standoff in the kitchen.  Instead, make small changes over time that make progress towards a healthier diet but don't try to by perfect. Simple changes could include switching to whole wheat pasta and rice, organic mac-n-cheese (Annie's make a wide variety of options), and yogurt that looks like real yogurt.  The 80-20 rule applies here, which means that 80% of the time you do the best you can and 20% of the time you accept that life is busy and you can't be perfect. 

Another way to make healthy changes without changing the foods your family eats is to switch to organic.  We all know that organic is more expensive which is why Robyn suggested that we feed our families... 

Some Organic, Some of the Time instead of All Organic, All of the Time.  

Switching to organic fruits and vegetables is one of the cheapest ways to add organic foods to your diet.  Check out the list of the Dirty Dozen, which are the most common produce items that are exposed to chemicals and pesticides.  As much as possible, choose organic when buying these fruits and vegetables.  

As a mom and an advocate for healthy families, Robyn encouraged each of us to take action and start educating others about the additives in our food.  One of her suggestions is to combine what you are passionate about with what you are good at and maybe start a blog! 

I wonder if she knows that my journey with healthy living began almost a year ago, which led to me launching Food and Fitness 4 Real in July 2011!  Now, not all of us are interested in starting a blog or a food revolution but we can all DO ONE THING to protect our families. 

One thing I am going to do this month is talk to the manager at my grocery store and ask about the source of the food they sell.  Where do they get their organic produce?  Is the milk from local farms? Where does the beef they sell in the store come from?  Is it grass-fed or humanely treated?  My goal this month is to learn more about the source of the food that I feed my family. 

Does anyone in your family have food allergies?  What ONE THING are you going to do to make a difference for your family?  What changes have you already made?