Growing up, I had only one friend in my entire class that had food allergies. She was deathly allergic to peanuts. This was not common and wasn’t treated with the delicateness that we show our children these days. Unfortunately, because of this, she passed away from eating a product that was manufactured in a facility that also dealt with nuts.
These days it seems every other child I know has a severe allergy to at least one food including my own children. My oldest has what Johns Hopkins calls a “secondary allergy to cow dairy”. She doesn’t display the typical rash, shortness of breath and other anaphylactic symptoms of a typical allergy, yet it is far more severe than just an intolerance. Ingested in any form she will get intense intestinal issues ranging from constipation, cramping, diarrhea, nausea and other such painful symptoms.
My youngest two start having major breathing issues when they ate avocados. After researching this fruit as an allergen, I noticed a recurring theme. Maybe they weren’t actually allergic to the avocado itself, but the latex that is injected into them to give them a nice sheen. WHAT?! How is this allowed? Why are our FDA regulations allowing even the tiniest of latex and other “chemicals” to be injected into our foods, and especially those that we deem as healthy like fruits and vegetables?
This led me down a road of really investigating the foods my family eats and their impact on our lives. GMOs, gluten, dyes, preservatives, organic, home grown, and free-range are all words that are tossed around with regard to food now, but what does it all mean? How do I know what is really good for my family and what is harmful?
While it seems so many lines have blurred, I think we can all agree that the best way to feed our bodies is to grow our own food, raise our own animals, and cook our own foods. But with the demands of work and school and extracurricular activities, how in the day and age can we do that? It seems impossible, so we as the consumer need to make the best decisions based on the information we have available to us.
I would love to eat all-natural and organic, but the truth is it is expensive, especially when you are feeding a family of six. I try to plant a garden each season and hit the farmer’s markets as much as possible. When this isn’t an option, I pick and choose what products need to be organic as much as possible and that takes us to the “dirty dozen and “clean fifteen”.
The dirty list is comprised of fruits and vegetables that were found to have over 45 different chemicals on or in them (a few even had as many as 67)! Do you want to put one chemical in your child’s body, let alone 45-76!?!
The “dirty dozen” list are those fruits and vegetables to steer clear of or buy as organic only:
- Domestic blueberries
- Sweet bell peppers
- Spinach, kale and collard greens
- Imported grapes
On the flip side are the clean fifteen which resulted in no to very few chemicals and pesticides when tested.
- Sweet corn
- Sweet peas
- Sweet potatoes
- Sweet onions
It is a good rule of thumb to get into the habit of following these lists when possible. Although it is near impossible to wash off pesticides, it can help in the reduction of chemicals we eat and that is better than nothing.
GMO’s, one the most tossed around words in the food industry today, were created to help stop the need for so many chemicals and pesticides on our foods, but with this, the fear of new allergens and toxins are brought to light.
For every article I researched on GMO’s, I found one that counteracted what I had just read. Hasn’t the food industry been altering and modifying fruits, vegetables and plants since farming started?
I plan to continue to avoid GMO’s and pesticides as much as I can until further evidence is provided that it isn’t or won’t be harmful to my family. It is just too risky to give these products to our children who are still growing and developing.
Another challenge I deal with daily are dyes. I have clearly noticed that dyes, particularly red and blue, cause my daughter to reel with hyperactivity. She can’t control herself and just bursts into energy. She is just very sensitive to the dyes and sugar in foods and this has become a common thread among many families with children who fall on the ADD spectrum, among other behavioral issues, too. I try to bake our own sweets when possible and flavor our foods in an all-natural way when I can. For example, I use fresh strawberries mixed with vanilla yogurt to make her strawberry yogurt so it is dye free.
There are countless studies out there that claim dyes cause hyperactivity, while never proved inconclusively, the studies show over and over that foods and drinks given to children cause, at the very least, an outburst of hyperactivity shortly following. We as parents know that hyperactive children tend to make more impulsive and less rational choices and decisions, which typically ends in someone getting in trouble. Yet marketers have done a fabulous job in making us believe that the only food that is good for you is the pretty food, so the food industry continues to add more CHEMICALS to our food for no other reason than to make them look attractive!
As with organic, it is nearly impossible to live a dye free life. Kids are exposed to sugary, dyed drinks and foods in school, on commercials, in books, at parties, on billboards and more, so they want it and let’s face it—the sugar tastes good. Even if we pack their lunches, control their snacks, and eat at home, they want to have what their friends are having.
Until the United States FDA regulations become stricter on the use of GMOs, dyes, and pesticides in the foods that we enjoy and use to nourish our bodies, we must continue to educate ourselves on what to purchase and when, how to best prepare our food, and most importantly teach our children early on so they know the effects of bad foods on our bodies and minds, and to make better choices “most” of the time.
I attached two photos I found below, one from EWG circa 2016. The lists are always similar although sometimes foods will get bumped for others.
Print and post on your fridge so you never forget!