When you’ve worked in the food industry for over twelve years, there’s little you don’t know. Or so I thought, until I read Robyn O’Brien’s The Unhealthy Truth last year. Like you and me, Robyn was a mom of four kids, doing the best job she knew how.
Until her youngest had a terrible reaction to a humble egg. That day changed her life. She set out to better understand why this happened with a computer in her lap. She quickly realized that the more she uncovered, the more research there was to do. Our food industry is an interesting, confusing and often political web where corporations look out for themselves first, and customers, growers, and the environment last.
Unlike other books about the intricacies of our food system, The Unhealthy Truth offers practical, affordable and realistic solutions for families who want to improve the health of their children. She talks about the rise in food allergies, the benefits of buying organic, genetically modified soy, government-subsidized corn crops, and school lunches. Of most interest to me was her findings on artificial food colors.
Here’s an excerpt from a recent interview:
But when I learned that Kraft, Coca Cola and Wal-Mart formulate their products differently for kids in other countries, so that the noodles, sodas and treats they put on grocery store shelves in places like the UK don’t contain artificial colors like yellow #5 because of the concern over its link to hyperactivity, I had to try to wean my kids off of those same synthetic ingredients.
She also shared some easy tips to help wean our children of artificial food dyes:
- Opt for white yogurt (instead of blue or pink) and let your kids color their own with colored sprinkles (it reduces the load of artificial colors, while preserving fun)
- Instead of the entire pack of yellow powder that comes with the box of mac and cheese, use half of the pack (and toss the rest), as again it reduces the load of chemicals without mutiny at the kitchen table (by kids who are accustomed to seeing fluorescent mac and cheese!)
- Instead of the multi-colored goldfish, switch to the pretzel version of goldfish as once again this goes a long way to reducing your child’s exposure to artificial colors.
- Instead of M&Ms, opt for a handful of chocolate chips (better yet, if you can get away with it, opt for raisins – or a mixture!) – no need to nix sweets, just the chemicals found in the artificial colors
- Instead of flavored conventional ice creams (like strawberry that can be loaded with artificial colors), offer vanilla ice cream and toppings (like chocolate chips)
- Instead of colored fruit punch, opt for juices free of artificial colors, like Kraft’s Capri Sun.
- Instead of bags of chips, colored and flavored with artificial orange, offer your kids pretzels or crackers to dip into things like ketchup, mustard or salad dressings.
I have a lot of respect for Robyn as a mother, and an activist trying to make the world a safer place for our kids. Her book opened the eyes of this food industry veteran to some new truths.
UPDATE: I’m writing a guidebook for parents on how to tell if their child is being negatively impacted by their diet. If you’d like to know when this resource is available, sign up for free updates from me here. Thank you!