Packaged foods are readily available and convenient but for that convenience we are paying more at the checkout and potentially exposing our kids to food additives that are known dangers.
Britain's Southampton University conducted a study into food additives and children's behaviour in 2007. They tested 300 children, aged three or eight years old, to discover the effect of colourings and additives on their behaviour.
This study answered the question regarding additives and ADHD and hyperactivity in children. It was recommended to remove the 'Southampton Six', (6 artificial colourings102, 124, 110, 122, 104 129,) from shelves across the EU.
Although many brands and restaurants subsequently removed these additives, those who did not must clearly label their products as such.
But not Australia.
"The evidence is there, it's enough to get parents concerned. Tantrums, sleeping issues, poor concentration, lethargy, irritability, skin problems and even asthma have been reported as side effects to additives in foods. As a parent, a paediatric dietitian and a foodie, I too am obsessed with keeping these unnecessary additions to an absolute minimum," says paediatric dietician from The Food Expert, Hanan Saleh.
"In my line of work, most families are concerned for the health of their growing children. They are already trying to follow a natural, preservative & additive free approach to their eating. "
Here are a few suggestions for your family.
Cook corn kernels in a little coconut oil on the stove for 5 minutes, or air pop it in the microwave in a paper bag. When cooked you can add some butter, salt, pepper and a pinch of smoked paprika.
Packet microwave popcorn contains additives for the butter flavour and the Teflon-like coating in the bag is a known carcinogen.
Dips and toasted tortillas
Buy a packet of wholemeal or multigrain tortillas and make your own chips by lightly grilling either side, and cutting into wedges.
Serve with dips such as hummus or guacamole.
1 tin chickpeas, or cannellini beans, drained
1 clove garlic, peeled
3 tablespoons of tahini
3 tablespoons of natural yoghurt
Juice of 1 lemon
½ teaspoon cumin
½ teaspoon smoked paprika
Blend in a food processor until smooth and serve with vegetables and homemade chips.
This Japanese vegetable snack is quick and easy and can be found in the freezer department in the supermarket. If you want some extra punch, you can stir-fry some chopped garlic and toss them together before serving.
Shaved Cheese on Brown Rice Crackers
In 2014 Choice Magazine did a study of the best lunchbox snacks and many processed cheese treats came up high in sodium and saturated fat.
The best cheese for your child is one low in sodium, and reduced fat and high calcium. Compare products and find the one best for you.
The 4-8 years age group should consume no more than 3.5g of sodium per day. According to the National Heart Foundation of Australia, a single ham and cheese sandwich can provide more than a 4-8 year olds recommended daily intake of salt and one processed cheese stick almost all the salt a three year old should have in a day.
Homemade Fruit Bars
Many bought fruit and muesli bars have lots of hidden sugar, additives and sulphites. Sulphites are often present in dried fruit, and are the additives that are most associated with asthma and eczema.
In 1999 the World Health Organisation discovered many more asthmatic children are affected by sulphite (up to 20-30%) than previously thought (4%). Australian research showed that over 65 per cent of asthmatic children were affected by sulphites, therefore alternative preservatives other than sulphites should be used where possible.
These homemade bars are gluten- free, dairy-free and processed sugar free. There are sugars present in dried fruit, but they are a better choice than many things on the shelf and they take 5 minutes to make.
Date and Cashew Bars
Makes 15 bars
1 ½ cups dates
½ cup cashews
¼ cup sunflower seeds
3 tablespoons cacao powder
1 tablespoon coconut oil
1 tablespoon chia seeds
¼ desiccated coconut
Place all of the ingredients into a food processor and process for about 5-6 minutes until it starts to stick together in a big, smooth lump.
Press it into a tray lined with baking paper and pop in the fridge for half an hour or until firm. Remove and cut into fingers.
Yoghurt with Fruit
Many flavoured yoghurts have at least 4-5 teaspoons of sugar (16-20g) per 100g serve. Buy natural yoghurt and flavour with vanilla paste and a hint of maple syrup, or blend some frozen berries, or mango and stir through.
You can also freeze them in popsicle moulds for an iced treat.
Sliced Apple with Organic Nut Butter
Apple smeared with your favourite nut butter is a great hit of fruit and protein. A perfect snack.