Since having children, my views on food have gradually changed, a slow transformation that is hopefully leading us as a family towards a better diet and lifestyle. The more I read and the more I look around and observe, the more I become aware of how so much marketing in the food industry is skewed towards just selling, selling, selling with no regard to customer health, especially when it comes to children's food. I was delighted, therefore when Organix, a company that very much stands out from the crowd with its very different approach to children's food, asked me to take part in the Organix No Junk Journey by signing up as a No Junk Mum for the year.
Organix are becoming increasingly concerned about the impact of engineered food and the increasing use of unnecessary additives, colourings and flavourings on the development of taste for food among young children, so they've commissioned a new research study, the results of which can be found in the Engineering Taste report. I received a copy of the report, along with a lovely box of goodies from Organix to welcome me to the No Junk Journey, and it really did make interesting (and in places worrying) reading.
The study shows that engineered foods are impacting children’s ability to recognise, experience and enjoy the taste of ‘real’ foods, for example a lot of children are growing up thinking that chickens don’t have bones and apples don’t have cores. It showed that children’s eating habits are changing – they’re needing more instant taste gratification and ‘easy eats’ (I found this idea particularly worrying, and will go into this in more detail in a minute). Another point raised is that the food industry claims of ‘real’ and ‘natural’ on children’s food packaging is misleading and duping parents, for example a leading chicken product states on the front of the pack: “Made with 100% chicken breast guaranteed”, which sounds great, but a look at the ingredients show there is only 51% chicken breast – and a total of 14 different ingredients. Whilst the meat component of the nuggets may well be 100% chicken, these figures indicate that a huge 49% of the nugget is not meat but breadcrumbs - with flour, water, salt, oil, maize and flavourings all on the ingredients list.
The tricky thing is that we parents are usually busy, and quick fixes are sometimes needed. I myself have probably bought the chicken product mentioned above, it's good to have something in the freezer to throw in the oven when time is short! What is concerning though is that convenient and ‘natural’ rarely go together, but misleading claims about 'real' and 'natural' make it harder to make informed decisions when buying food. Research suggests parents are keen to make good food choices so they seek out ‘real’ and ‘natural’ claims on the front of pack during their supermarket shop. As they learnt more about the product and its ingredients (often very long lists of ingredients), many parents were surprised to discover it was not as ‘natural’ as it appeared, or as the manufacturers had claimed.
Going back to a previous point, it's the effect that these engineered foods are having on our children that I find particularly worrying. Take a look at the charts below. The first shows our taste experience when we eat 'real' food - as you can see the experience of flavour builds as we chew, and fades away slowly.
By contrast, look at the difference when we eat artificially flavoured foods - an instant hit of flavour which quickly fades and dies away.
The significance of this is that artificial foods make us want to eat more, and quickly, which easily leads to overeating. Also, if children don't eat enough 'real' foods, they also lose the skills to experience the taste, flavour and texture, it just becomes too challenging for them, so they then shun real foods in favour of artificial alternatives.
After reading this report (do pop over to the Organix website if you'd like to read the full report yourself), I feel more determined than ever to keep our diet as natural and healthy as possible. I'll be reading labels and checking ingredients more thoroughly, and trying to prioritise short, healthy ingredients lists over convenience. I hope to share how my journey goes over the year here on the blog, so be sure to follow along to see how we get along!
In the meantime, I did a quick scan of my cupboards in an attempt to find some good and bad examples of labelling, check out the results below!
- Wholemeal Tortilla Wraps - potentially these could be made from just flour and water, so finding 21 ingredients was a bit of a shock! I'll be having a go at making my own ASAP.
- Gravy Granuals - admittedly a bit of a convenience food, but I did not expect to find so many e numbers in the ingredients list.
- Sugar Free Jelly - Take out the sugar and add a whole load of unpronounceable ingredients in its place, and there's even a warning about one of the ingredients?!
- Whole Earth Peanut Butter is one of the few that lives up to the advertising, just 3 ingredients in this delicious peanut butter.
- I love the way Organix adds an explanation for anything slightly unusual, and their ingredients lists are always reassuringly short with nothing but wholesome 'real' foods.
One of the reasons I have been a huge fan or Organix since my seven year old was a baby is the short ingredients lists and transparent labelling that is on every one of their products. I really wish that all food companies would do the same. There are so many unnecessary ingredients added to our food and it just makes our lives harder, as we try to balance busy lifestyles with feeding our children good, healthy food. Organix proves that it is possible to make healthy convenient food without all the added extras.
Are you concerned about the quality of ingredients and the artificial engineering of children's food? Would you like Organix to campaign on your behalf to do something about the problem, and to make it easier for parents to feed their children healthy ‘real’ food? Pop over to the Organix Facebook page to share your views and opinions, or follow along on Twitter and join in with the #OrganixTaste conversation!
Disclosure: This blog post was commissioned by Organix as a part of a series of post for the No Junk Journey campaign. I was compensated for my time, however all opinions expressed in this post are my own