Grocery Shopping Pains

The things I consumed as a child, I would never feed to my own children. My parents did the best they knew how with the information given at the time. I also believe our food was vastly different form today. Lucky for us that we know more now. Shame on me if I knowingly feed my children fast food and a plethora of soda, candy and sweets.

The more I learn, the more I’m discouraged at the direction of our food production in this country. Since the birth of our first born, Nishad, my trips to the grocery store have doubled in time. Why? Because I read the ingredients. My rule of thumb? The less ingredients, the better. The more local the product, the better.

We knew organic was better, however, when he was little didn’t know that much about it. So like any pro-active parents that want the best for their little ones, we researched the topic and drew our own conclusions. He’s been drinking organic milk ever since he made the switch at 12-months old.

Since our children were born we’ve made some changes in our diets that would directly influence our children’s diet and health. Our children are vegetarian. Ashish only eats fish. I eat chicken, turkey and fish. I haven’t consumed pork, lamb or beef in about 7 years. Ashish has been vegetarian since he was a child. Research states, it’s simply better for you. It’s also a very ‘green’ thing to do for our earth. If everyone were vegetarian, or at least cut out three ‘meat’ meals a week, we could tackle world hunger. Now that’s something to sink your teeth into! Do I miss ‘meat’ in the carnivore sense? Not really. Morning Star veggie bacon, sausage and crumblers are fantastic. In fact by substituting Morning Star products, I can make an excellent vegetarian chili and stuffed peppers – just like Mom’s, biscuits and gravy and a mean potato salad that tastes exactly like my Aunt Linda’s.

I also grew-up eating sugar-coated cereal and continued to do so in my adult years. My objects of affection (always at eye-level) in the cereal isle were Frosted Flakes, Coo-Coo Puff’s, Lucky Charm’s and my two favorites, Fruit Loop’s and Capt’n Crunch. As of last December, I shared with Ashish my decision to banish these cereals from our household as I didn’t want Nishad to start eating them.

Soda was never is short supply at our household. The brand of choice was Coke. I’m not sure when I had my first sip of coke, but surely, my love for sugary soft drinks began instantaneously. First generation “Happy Meal” kid that I was, milk wasn’t offered- coke was. We all know how much I patroned Mc D’s as a kid. I don’t blame my parents at all. How can I? It was marketed to them as a ‘perfect’ well-balanced meal. I feel like I have to spend the rest of my life detoxing from the wicked clown.

Mental check list: while at the grocery store avoid products with:
1. High Fructose Corn Syrup.
2. Partially Hydrogenated Oil or Shortening
3. Genetically Engineered Food

Dear Sugar, NOT Fructose,
Since January, I’ve been on a high fructose kick…as in kick it out of our diet! Which, if you every read a nutritional label on the back of your favorite foods, it’s difficult to do. I am constantly amazed at how much stuff contains fructose corn syrup. High-fructose corn syrup provides the sweet zing in everything from Coke, Pepsi and Snapple iced tea to Dannon yogurt and Chips Ahoy cookies. It also lurks in unexpected places, like Ritz crackers, Wonder bread, Wishbone ranch dressing and Campbell’s tomato soup. HFCS is linked to diabetes, obesity and heart disease.

The truth is that fructose and HFCS, as large-scale commercial sweeteners, didn’t exist 20 years ago. We all grew-up hearing about how ‘fructose’ came from fruit. Well, that’s not true today. It’s not only bad for you, it’s highly addictive. In addition, it manipulates hormones and chemicals in your brain that gives you a signal of when you are full. Mc D’s even puts it in their wonder burgers. I call them that as one can only wonder what exactly is in them- similar to their surprise chicken. We won’t even touch their coffee as if you are putting stuff in burgers, who knows what you are putting in the coffee. Besides, I can pay a little more at Caribou or Starbucks for a cup of Jo, but at least I know they are a bit more eco-friendly and participate in free trade…unlike Mc D’s or BK.

I’ll Pass on the Trans-Fat, thank you!
Well, you’re standing in the grocery isle finally holding a product that doesn’t have HFCS and you’re set, right? Mission accomplished. How Bush of you! Check to see if it contains a lethal trans-fat, that is literally like poison for your body- Partially hydrogenated oil. Don’t fall for the marketing trick of “Zero-Trans Fat” either- read the label for yourself. See, it’s harder than you think, isn’t it? Partially hydrogenated oil is found in many snack and convenience foods such as popcorn, cookies, crackers and cake, as well as in many fried food such as donuts and fast food places. This ingredient is relatively cheap for production, it has a long shelf-life, and its ability to be used as a substitute ingredient for other more costly ingredients is attractive to companies. Prior to the widespread use of partially hydrogenated soybean oil, companies and fast food places would use coconut oil and butter. However, due to the higher cost of these two ingredients, as well as their relatively short shelf-life which resulted spoiling food, a cheaper, longer-lasting ingredient was sought. Now that there‚Äôs more awareness, some corporations have changed the name of these trans fatty oils to mono-diglycerides.

Cancer, diabetes, heart disease, multiple sclerosis and allergies that can cause arthritis are all linked to hydrogenated oils, my friend. It also disables your body from properly absorbing good essential fatty acids (necessary to sustain healthy life) found largely in polyunsaturated oils. Instead of being absorbed and providing your body with what it needs to function properly, the essential fatty acids are eventually stored as fat cells, causing you to gain weight.

Every apple is the same.
Genetically engineered food is a touchy subject for me that I have a lot to learn about yet. I understand that before we were born, farmers were already busy splitting seeds and modifying plants to make stronger, more bountiful crops and harvests. However, I don’t think I’m ready to hand over our food production to a few big companies that weigh production and profit before the health of our children. I’m not sure I’m ready to consume animal genes in plants and vice versa. One also has to think about the impact on human health (allergens, antibiotic resistance, etc.). I can’t say that I fully support tampering with nature. At least label all genetically engineered food.

Food for PLU~
Here’s a little something I learned from Jeff Fox, former editor of Organic Gardening magazine. PLU codes are the codes you find on produce and fruit.

  • A five digit code that begins with the number 9 means it is completely organic.
  • A code that begins with the number 8 means it is genetically modified.
  • A four digit code means that it was grown the tradition, standard way with pesticides and chemicals- however, it is not genetically engineered.