The further I go in eating better and learning about the impacts certain foods have on my body, the more I realize that I can’t take this journey alone; I need to get my family on board too. I recently wrote about how important it is to my husband and I, to let our kids be kids and not get all neurotic with the clean eating changes. However, there are some everyday staples we’re using that we really need to ditch as soon as possible. A couple of the items can be swapped out with barely anyone noticing, but a few are going to be really hard to give up. Here are the 7 items I want to eliminate from our diets, and the really scary reasons why.
Say Bye Bye! 1 of 8
Click through to read about the 7 foods we use and eat everyday in our household, and why I want to ditch them from our diet pronto!
Margarine 2 of 8
The culprit: Margarine
The alternative: Real butter (in moderation)
I've sort of had some idea that margarine wasn't really good for us, but to be honest I've ignored that little voice in my head and opted to keep buying it. Why? Well, in comparison to real butter, it's affordable, it spreads so easily, and to me, it just tastes good, probably because I grew up eating it. My kids have now come to love the salty flavoring too, and how they can see the stuff just sitting on their toast. But as I type this out, I realize just how gross it really sounds, seeing as how the salty flavor, and its magical spread-ability qualities, are in large part due to its synthetic nature. Not convinced of how bad margarine really is for you? This article provides a very comprehensive list of why you should avoid it, but bottom line, margarine is overly processed and clogs our arteries with loads of polyunsaturated fats, increases cholesterol, and is artificially colored and flavored.
Hazlenut Spread 3 of 8
The culprit: Hazelnut spread
The alternative: Natural Peanut or Almond Butter
I started buying hazlenut spread a couple of years ago as an alternative to peanut butter, after hearing it was "healthy" because it was nut based and has less fat than its peanut butter counterpart. Before I knew it, my kids, and in particular my son who eats a very limited diet to begin with, started requesting it every single day. For breakfast, in their lunch box, and as an after school snack, it's gotten to the point where I'm buying Costco sized batches of the stuff. But the truth is, hazlenut spread is loaded with tons of sugar, which is particularly bad for kids because it creates those evil sugar spikes and crashes that can turn them into tiny monsters. Hazlenut spread also contains modified palm oil, so essentially my kids are eating cocoa flavored margarine. Yummy! At least peanut butter is pure and simple, with its fats coming from a natural source. I think my kids need to start learning to enjoy almond butter.
Fake Syrup 4 of 8
The culprit: Fake bottled syrup
The alternative: Pure, Grade A maple syrup
I've personally made the switch to pure maple syrup, but it's time for the rest of my family to come on board as well. My husband and kids love waffles and pancakes, and eat a dose of the fake syrupy stuff at least 2-3 times a week. And they're pretty heavy handed with it too. But while pure maple syrup may be a lot more expensive than the fake stuff, and have a different flavor, at least that flavor is natural. Fake syrup is made of high fructose corn syrup, and artificial coloring and flavors — essentially, it's the absolute opposite of natural maple syrup. While syrup, whether real maple or fake, is essentially sugar, if you're going to add it in with your diet in moderation, you might as well use the one that's closest to nature, right? Plus real maple syrup actually has some nutritional value, and is a good source of zinc and manganese. The fake stuff can't make those claims. If you're concerned about the cost, know that a little goes a long way and it has such a rich flavor that you don't need to douse your pancakes with the stuff. You can also source it online at a more affordable price if your family eats plenty of foods that call for syrup, like we do.
Frozen Waffles 5 of 8
The culprit: Frozen Toaster Waffles
The alternative: On the waffle iron, at home, made from scratch
Next to hazlenut spread, my kids' favorite breakfast treat are frozen waffles, and preferably the brand that rhymes with let go. They would honestly eat them everyday if they could, but the problems with frozen waffles are plentiful. First, the cheaper brands contain almost nil amounts of protein and fiber, which are both important to help us feel full and satisfied, which is especially important at breakfast time. They also contain good amounts of soy, which studies show isn't that great for young kids, on top of preservatives, and artificial coloring and flavors. The good news is, there are healthier, organic versions out there which have higher amounts of fiber and protein, and fewer artificial ingredients, but they are expensive and a poor value, especially if you're on a budget. Time for me to suck it up, and if I want to provide a meal my kids love at breakfast time, I need to ditch the frozen kind and start making up the real thing from scratch more often. They're more affordable, I can see what I put in them, and I can even add extra nutritious ingredients like flaxseed and whole wheat flour.
Coffee Creamer 6 of 8
The culprit: Non-dairy processed coffee creamer
The alternative: Almond Milk
While it's not my favorite, I've started to slowly transition from coffee creamer to drinking my coffee black or with a bit of almond milk. But I've yet to be successful at convincing my husband he needs to make the switch too, and he has a Costco size jug of the stuff at his office. Creamers are first off, not real dairy cream at all, and are really just a combination of water, sugar, hydrogenated oils, and artificial flavors to help mimic the taste and richness of true cream. The higher calorie count from the sugar is unfortunate, but the real kicker is just how bad hydrogenated oils are for us. They clog our arteries, and are overly processed, so much so that these oils more closely resemble a plastic than an actual natural oil. And they are injected with metals to get the molecules to rearrange themselves. Creepy right? While it may seem overwhelming to inspect the ingredients and think about what we put into our bodies at every turn, especially when we're only using a tablespoon here and there, when all these things add up, we are clogging our bodies with scary amounts of bad, harmful stuff. I think it's time for me to start putting my foot down, even if it causes a riot.
Cheesy Crackers and Crunchy Snacks 7 of 8
The culprit: Cheesy processed snack crackers
The alternative: Crunchy snap peas or celery with almond butter
My kids love crunchy snacks, and their all-time favorite are those square cheese crackers. You know the ones I'm taking about. Most adults love them too, I know I do. They're salty, have a smoky cheesy "flavor," and are petite so you can pop them in your mouth one by one and not feel like you're chomping down monstrous amounts. They also pack well, so are easy to put in school lunches. My kids literally get giddy when I bring a box home. The downer though, is they're loaded with artificial flavors and colors, and they lack fiber and protein so they're an empty snack, not filling little bodies up, or giving them the fuel they need. They're also made with vegetable oil, which can lead to childhood obesity and unless stated, usually means they contain GMO's. And the kicker for me is our pediatric dentist said these types of snacks lead to cavities because they stick in the tiny crevices of teeth, and since they also contain sugar, just rot away at the enamel. With no dental insurance to speak of, cavities equals big fat dollar signs in my eyes. So bye-bye cheesy crunchy snacks that we all love so much. We're just not good for each other.
Chicken Fingers and Nuggets 8 of 8
The culprit: Those gosh darn kid-favorite chicken nuggets
The alternative: Grilled chicken with panko or bread crumbs and brown rice
While we were on our road trip last week, and my kids ate their weight in chicken fingers, I started Operation No More Bleeping Chicken Fingers. My daughter's palette is much more diverse and includes all sorts of fresh fruits and veggies, so I don't worry so much about her intake of the fried food. But my son could sustain himself off chicken fingers and cheesy crackers for all of eternity. He's picky beyond belief, and while I never cook them at home, it's his go-to menu item when out at restaurants. Since we end up eating out at least 1-2 times a week between lunch and dinner, he's eating more fried chicken than I would like, not to mention it does nothing for helping to open him up to trying new foods. So why am I so concerned about these fried bits of meat? Well the obvious; they're battered and fried, and most likely in fatty vegetable oil. On top of that, if you get them at a less high-brow restaurant, they're usually not even made with real chicken pieces, but processed formed chicken bits and parts. They're loaded with sugar and preservatives to help them taste good, and they're usually always accompanied by more fried food - french fries! Some places offer carrots or apple slices as an alternative, but still. My friends and I were discussing this chicken finger pandemic, and that restaurants should really just offer an adult menu in smaller portions and costs and get rid of the usually awful kids menu.
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