I still cringe when I think back to our family vacation, 2013, and the shocked look on my then 7 year olds face as we watched another child attack the all-you-can-eat buffet with reckless abandon.
I’m not sure if it was the sheer quantity of quickly consumed nuggets, the slow drip of the cheesy goo oozing like a protective overcoat on character-shaped pasta, or the plethora of colorful toppings ranging from mini chocolate chips, to dried gummie things and candy bar pieces, to whipped cream at the sundae bar. All I know is that at that moment, my kid both loved and hated me for she wished she didn’t know.
Since my kids were tots, we’ve discussed what it means to eat healthy portions of clean food. In a world competing for my kids soul through the temptation of unnaturally shaped processed foods presented in kid-enticing packages, we decided early on to point out the top 3 reasons we don’t let them run amuck in the food aisle or buffet line whenever we are out.
1) Sugar and spice and everything….not so nice.
First, it is important to note the difference between high fructose corn syrup and fructose.
Fructose is fruit sugar, a simple sugar that makes up one-half of the molecule of sucrose or table sugar. (The other half is glucose, usually called grape or blood sugar.) Fructose tastes sweeter than sucrose but has fewer calories because the body does not metabolize it well. The body doesn’t handle large amounts of fructose well.
High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) is a recent invention of the food industry, made by an enzyme-mediated process. Old-fashioned corn syrup is less sweet and contains mostly glucose. HFCS matches sucrose in sweetness but is significantly cheaper. HFCS been considered a “revolutionary” food science innovation because it retains moisture and prevents drying, controls crystallization, and blends with other sweeteners, acids and flavorings. Manufacturers love it, and it has become the main sweetener used in processed foods today. Everything from soft drinks and juices to salad dressings, ketchup, jams, jellies, ice cream and many others contain HFCS. HFCS contains 14 percent fructose.
The idea is not that HFCS causes hyperactivity in children. More so, that foods made with HFCS is not natural, does not digest well and in many instances, contributes to overconsumption of the food in which it is used. Childhood obesity, diabetes, and a multitude of other pint-sized ailments are traced back to a poor diet–and that includes food with HFCS.
From the cereal to kick off your morning to that peanut butter and jelly sandwich you packed for Timmy’s lunch and the quickly prepared dinner-from-a-box-or-can, are all likely filled with HFCS. Simply, read the label. If it has HFCS, put it down.
For starters, here are few of our family favorite brands that contain no HFCS and can get you through a few meals and snacks:
Brownberry’s Arnold Natural Health Nut Bread
Tandoori Roti/Naan breads
Mott’s Natural Apple Sauce
Life cereal (regular and cinnamon)
Nabisco Original Triscuits
Pepperidge Farm Goldfish
Jif Peanut Butter
Smuckers Organic Strawberry Preserves
Skippy Super Chunk Peanut Butter
Archway’s Molasses Cookies
Pepperidge Farms Butter Chessman Cookies
Classico (Most varieties)
Campbell’s 25% Less Sodium Chicken Noodle Soup
Nature Valley Oats & Honey flavor granola bars
Eggo Frozen Waffles
A comprehensive listing of foods without HFCS can be found here.
2) Portion distortion.
Kids don’t understand what a serving size amounts to and sadly, many kids eat for pleasure, not for fuel. And who can blame them? We use food to celebrate birthdays, canvas the neighborhood for candy at Halloween, and use as a bribe to polish the plate. As a result, kids end up eating far more than they should, whether it be from consuming a fast food meal, eating on the run or, because they are super hungry at dinnertime and overeat.
Teaching kids early on that a serving size is the amount that can fit in the palm width of their hand is a perfect food-to-tummy ratio. And, as your child grows, the serving size slowly increases, almost like a built in food scale! Soon, Timmy will understand if he’s had one serving of mashed potatoes or four.
3) Variety is not the spice of life.
Letting your child pick out his food is not empowering. If you are up for a tantrum, whiny pleas and begs, or constant reminders as to why a fourth bowl of ice cream is not going to happen, then go for it. But remember, kids need guidance.
Buffets begin with the often-overlooked dry salad of mixed greens. If you are lucky, there may be slivers of brightly colored carrots and cabbage strewn mixed in, along with a tinged-red radish or two. Notice how full those salad bins are–nobody eats; then moving down the line, the array of pizza’s, pastas, potatoes, and butter-soaked vegetables greets kids at eye level, followed by breads, brownies, and an ice cream station.
Do you have a tip, trick, or advice that has worked for you when taking your kids to a buffet?
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