Hey everyone, it’s that enviable time for every blogger when a guest writer takes over for a day and gives said blogger a much desired (if not necessarily needed) break. Not to mention, that when you get an expert in the field you were hoping to learn about… BONUS!!! So without further ado I give you Lisa from The Meaning of Me. I will let her do the talking, but take my word for it… it’s worth the listen! ~Ivy
Raising a child is a permanent learning process.
To say my Husband and I learn something new every day is a gross understatement. From the moment our daughter was born, we have been learning. We learned how to clip baby toenails, her secret sign that tells us we are 36 hours from ear infection, how much bubble bath is too much, and whether a rash is worthy of a call to the pediatrician.
Of all the things we have learned as parents, one of the most detailed has been how to feed our child. Getting nourishment into your child should be a relative no-brainer. Parents have been feeding their young since the beginning of human existence. So far, we hae managed to survive. The human race has not died off from lack of ability to find food for the young of the species. It’s instinct – animals do it, too – and for a large part of the earth’s history, no one needed a parenting book or a nutrition label to do it.
But things change.
Early Modern Humans were likely not concerned with things like allergens or preservatives. They did not wonder about the sugar content or genetic modification of their breakfast cereal. How and what we eat has evolved, just as we have. For better or worse, our foods are a far cry from the simple diet of our early ancestors.
Over a period of time, we learned that our daughter has strong adverse reactions to artificial food dyes. I won’t detail it all here. (If you’re interested, you can contact me via Ivy or my blog.)
That was the easy part of this learning adventure.
The next level of our education required that we find a new way to select our daughter’s foods. I am not here to either discuss or recommend any particular “diet” to you. There are dozens of options out there, and every person has to find the eating plan that works for them. My goal here is to share with you how we learned to detect, avoid, and replace the food additives that we did not want our daughter to consume. Our particular scenario is about artificial coloring. Much of what we have learned is also applicable to other food sensitivities and allergies.
One of the first things we had to learn was where food dyes lurk. The short answer? Everywhere. It is amazing where artificial food coloring likes to hang out. We soon became experts on finding the dyes on the ingredient lists. We learned to spot the obvious ones – red 40, yellow 5, yellow 6 – as well as more vague words such as “artificial coloring” or “coloring.”
We learned to scan labels for the “good” coloring – terms like “natural coloring” are helpful. Words like “beet juice” or “spinach extract for color” are pretty specific. But we also found words like “carmine” and “annatto” on labels. We researched those, too, so we knew exactly what they were.
We learned that you can not make assumptions about whether a dye does – or does not – exist in a particular food. We learned to always assume we are dealing with an offending dye until we investigate and determine otherwise.
We learned that our supermarket’s website provides label and packaging information including ingredient lists. We still spend a fair amount of time reading labels in the aisles, but this website feature has saved us hours of guesswork – and footwork.
We learned about particular brands and products – more than we ever imagined possible. We can tell you which variety of a particular major macaroni and cheese product line is “safe” for our daughter and which is not. We learned which food brands are safe across the board.
We learned to ask questions. This happens mainly in situations where we eat away from home. If we are not sure of ingredients, we ask. We have learned about the products and ingredients restaurants use and know which belong on our “safe” list.
We learned that higher-quality restaurants tend to be better options when eating away from home. These places tend to have fresher ingredients and fewer pre-made products. An inexpensive chain simply won’t have the tools to offer you something out of the ordinary or off the menu. A restaurant that shops daily for ingredients and has fresh, whole foods on hand can do amazing things.
We learned that the more people who are aware of our daughter’s food needs, the more they can help.
We learned that most people are willing to help. Classroom moms and cafeteria staff at our daughter’s school provide us with food information and look out for her. Servers and managers in restaurants are happy to check ingredient lists and talk with us about their food. Even our daughter’s friends keep an eye on her.
We learned that our daughter has to be able to make choices for herself when we are not with her. She knows how to read food labels. She learned which ingredients are on her “safe” list and which are not. She learned to ask an adult in charge if she needs help deciding what.
We learned that there is a substitute for just about everything – or at least something close. It is rare that we don’t find something to use or provide for our daughter when there is something she can’t have.We have even found safe food coloring made from vegetable extracts.
We learned that the more people who are aware of our daughter’s food needs, the more they can help. We learned that most people are willing to help. Classroom moms and cafeteria staff at our daughter’s school provide us with food information and look out for her. Servers and managers in restaurants are happy to check ingredient lists and talk with us about their food. Even our daughter’s friends keep an eye on her
We learned how to eat better as a family. Because of the foods our daughter has to avoid, my Husband and I avoid them as well. It just makes sense. As a rule, we choose whole, organic, and unprocessed foods as often as possible. We learned that these better eating habits benefit us all in many ways.
If you have stuck with me this far, thank you! And thank you to Ivy for sharing her space with me today! I could go on for many more words, but this is already quite a lot of information. I am always happy to share what we have learned about food dyes, substitutions, and more. If you have any questions, I’ll be glad to talk with you.
Lisa is a wife, mother, and newly self-employed recovering high school English teacher. She lives with her Fab Hub, her daughter Kidzilla, and three Rotten Cats. She spends her time stacking the pile of books to read ever higher, wondering if she should have been a chef, and trying to figure out where she last left her damn cell phone. Lisa blogs about life and all its fascinations and banalities at the The Meaning of Me.