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Thirst Quenching

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Five Lunchbox Favorites Masquerading as Nutritious Food

Today's guest post comes from Heather Martin, N.D. -- a naturopath, mother, and wellness blogger from Eastern Canada. Heather is a curator of all things awesome on her excellent blog, The Acorn -- Wellness, Inspiration, Beauty.

 

 

It may come as some surprise that many of the biggest lunchbox villains are marketed as healthy choices for kids. These companies, after all, want to make money, not feed your kids nutritious food. Labels like ‘low fat’, ‘sugar free’, or ‘all natural’ are purposely deceptive. A quick perusal of a food’s ‘Nutrition Facts’ often bears out a far different story than the one being trumpeted in splashy print across the front of the box.

The following childhood standards are widely viewed by parents as nutritious options. And who could blame them; the marketing budgets behind these products could fund some small countries. Remember, packaged food is BIG business - whereas an apple is just an apple.

 

1. Granola Bars

With names like ‘Nutri-Grain’, ‘Oats n’ Honey’, and ‘Fibre One’, you would expect granola bars to be packed with good stuff for your kids. The reality is that they contain anywhere from 9 to 20 grams of sugar. To put that in perspective, 5 grams equals roughly 1 teaspoon of sugar. At the top end of the spectrum, that little bar contains a whopping 4 teaspoons of sugar. Let’s call a spade a spade: at this point, it’s a chocolate bar.

Swap for a homemade version or high-energy snacks, like nuts or a banana.

 

2. Luncheon Meats

This sandwich staple should be avoided at all costs. Freshly sliced cold cuts from the deli counter are fine if they are nitrate-free. But pre-packaged meats, unless you can find an organic brand, are usually loaded with preservatives, sodium, and most problematically, nitrates, a known carcinogen.

Swap for canned salmon, hard boiled eggs, leftovers, or fresh, nitrate-free cold cuts.

 

3. Yogurt Cups

Yogurt cups are, quite simply, dessert masquerading as a healthy lunch staple. Even when they’re devoid of questionable preservatives, the sugar content is sky high. At 19 to 29 grams per cup, flavored yogurt manages to make even granola bars look good. That’s more sugar than a Twinkie!

Swap for plain kefir or plain, whole fat yogurt.

 

4. 'Low Fat’ and ‘Fat Free’ Foods

First, if it advertises this on the label, you’re automatically buying a processed food. Second, fat is often replaced with sugar, which your body ingests and then turns into fat. Third, there are many, many, healthy fats, and your brain (amongst other organs!) needs these healthy fats to function. Last but not least, naturally occurring fats help us digest our food; once removed they can cause all sorts of digestive issues. Do not, I repeat, do not fall prey to this marketing gimmick. It’s making us all sick.

Swap for real food from your kitchen. Do your best to avoid packaged and processed.

 

5. Juice Boxes

Back to those pesky added sugars again. Any label that reads ‘fruit punch’, ‘fruit blend’, or ‘all natural flavour’; beware. This is Kool-aid in disguise, my friends. Even 100% juice contains all the sugar and none of the fibre or vitamins of a piece of fruit (that part has been processed out).

Swap for fruit and a reusable bottle of water.

 

Knowledge is power: learning to steer clear of these ‘healthy’ imposters in your grocery aisles gives you the power to opt out of a system that enriches itself at the cost of our well being. Far from making your kids healthy and happy, these products are high in preservatives, sugar, sodium, trans fats, and ingredients no normal person can pronounce. In other words, the very things that are making our kids sick.

Author and naturopath Heather Martin blogs at  The Acorn Wellness .

Author and naturopath Heather Martin blogs at The Acorn Wellness.

When packing their lunchbox, keeping it real is your best bet. If you stick with whole foods, you’re already way ahead of the curve. Think hummus and raw vegetables, a homemade bean salad, or almond butter and an apple. With a little advance planning, it’s easy to get into the habit of swapping lunchbox villains for real food favorites. A very little extra effort will pay off in a delicious, nutritious meal to help your family feel their best, both in and out of school. 


 

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Juiced On Juice

Every month or so, I buy a 16oz container of freshly squeezed orange juice. And, I noticed that the always-helpful cashiers at my grocery store usually ask me, “Would you like to keep that out?” By this, they mean would I like to keep the OJ separate from the bagged groceries because I might want easy access to this beverage? Presumably, so I could chug it in the car on my way home???

My reply is always, “No thanks.” But, actually, what I want to say is…. “This is orange juice for my family of five. We will all get three to four ounces of juice in a small (juice) glass on Sunday morning. It’s a treat – we do this once a month. So, NO, I will not be downing this on my drive home.”

Orange juice, although delicious, is full of sugar. Two cups (16oz) of orange juice has more sugar than a 12oz Coke.  And, juice is fruit stripped of its fiber, so we tend to over-consume it. 16 oz of orange juice is the juice of roughly six medium oranges. That is a lot of oranges... The juice contains a trace amount of fat and a couple of grams of protein. Most of the calories are from sugar. Basically, orange juice is a carb-fest.

But the cashiers had me thinking… Lots of customers must say, “Yes. Please leave it out.” (Or they wouldn't ask, right?) And at least some of these shoppers must proceed to drink all or most of that 16oz container on the long ride home. So I thought, hmmm… what would happen if I chugged the orange juice?

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This graph gives you a picture of what happened to my blood sugar during this little adventure. Not pretty. And, I was definitely a little buzzed... I felt a rush. I felt a little bloated (that's a lot of juice!) and a little dazed. I could NOT CONCENTRATE (perhaps explaining the warning on the label, 'NOT from CONCENTRATE')? And then, two and a half hours later, I was starving. So I would say, being 'on the juice' is a bad idea. Even if you mean fresh, organic orange juice.

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Thirst Quenching 101

Soda. Juice. Snapple. Gatorade. Energy Drinks. Lemonade. Diet versions of all of these...  what is a mother to serve?

Here is a basic way to think about hydration. Every mammal on earth drinks water. Carnivores, like wolves, drink water. Herbivores, like deer, drink water. Primates, like gorillas drink water. Humans are primates and mammals. So, if you or someone in your family is thirsty, water is your go-to drink. If family members are drinking something to accompany a meal, think of this as hydration, and go with water.

What if my child is playing soccer? Should he drink a sports drink like Gatorade or Propel? Probably not. Water is the best drink to replenish fluids during and after athletics. Water does not contain extra and unnecessary sugar and salt. Are there exceptions? Yes. Is your child playing soccer for more than three hours straight? Or, is your child playing soccer in extreme heat? Unless your child is engaging in endurance athletics or you are concerned about hot weather to which your child is not accustomed, water is best.

What about milk? I like to think of milk as food - something to drink when you are hungry, not thirsty. So, if you are looking for a snack, whole, unsweetened milk might be a good choice, assuming you or your family member does well with dairy. But for thirst, go with water. (If you have an underweight child into whom you are always trying to sneak calories, maybe milk is a good choice anytime.)

What about alcohol? If you are thirsty, drink water. If you want to get a buzz on, drink alcohol. If you want to get a buzz on while maintaining your weight, avoid adding sugary beverages to your cocktails, and try to keep an eye on how many drinks you consume each week.

What about soda, lemonade, Snapple, Sweet Tea, fruit juice, and other sugary beverages? Again, if you are thirsty, drink water. If you are choosing a beverage to accompany a meal, drink water. If you are celebrating a special occasion, perhaps you might choose to splurge and have a soft drink. And, when you drink it, think of it as special treat, not a daily privilege. (Note to self: keep these celebrations to once or twice a month.) For day-to-day hydration, drink only water. 

May I flavor my water with citrus, berries, tea, herbs, or other unsweetened additions?  Sure. Although unnecessary, it adds variety.  Go for it.

It seems we are so sophisticated and so affluent that the obvious choice of what to have to drink - water - has been eclipsed by the multi-billion dollar beverage industry's menu of enticing, expensive, and health degrading choices. Many people think water is boring. But it is also a critical step on our collective path back to health. We are lucky enough to live in a country where clean, drinkable water flows at almost no cost from our taps. Let's start turning the faucets and filling our glasses.

 

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