How is a parent supposed to choose toddler food?
First-time moms, not having previous experience as a point of reference, often panic about their toddlers’ eating habits. Mostly I hear “How can I get my child to eat more? I think he/she is starving.”
This article is not meant to bash a product. It just so happens that so many things we shouldn’t feed a toddler are all found in one brand of products.
One of the most common finger foods I see babies and toddlers being given is cereal – in particular, Cheerios, made by General Mills, a company that uses many genetically modified ingredients in their cereals. Concerns about GMOs (genetically modified organisms) aside, when was the last time you examined the label on America’s most beloved toddler finger food? Their internet search descriptor says this: “Learn why Cheerios® has been a tasty, trusted family favorite for generations.” Looking at a label of regular Cheerios (and the specialty flavors are no better) we see whole grain oats, modified corn starch, corn starch, sugar, salt, trisodium phosphate, calcium carbonate, monoglycerides, tocopherols, wheat starch, annatto, niacinamide, calcium pantothenate, pyridoxine hydrochloride (vitamin B6), folate, iron.
Take a look at some of these –
Modified corn starch – Modified corn starch often contains about 10% maltodextrin, which is a common keyword used by industry to hide the presence of monosodium glutamate.1
Corn starch – While this is often used as a thickener, it breaks down into sugar very quickly.2
Trisodium phosphate – According to MedlinePlus, TSP is a degreasing agent used to prepare walls for painting and in many solvents and cleansers.3
Calcium carbonate – As mentioned in my article, The Calcium Conundrum, this is not a bioavailable form of calcium. It does nothing for bone density or nerve function.
According to Steven Horne, monoglycerides may just be another name for trans fats. “…But the industry only has to report trans fat content from triglycerides–not from monoglycerides or diglycerides. But trans fats are inevitably formed when mono- and diglycerides are manufactured. (That’s right. Manufactured. Not grown or harvested, but constructed in the lab like Frankenstein–just like partially hydrogenated oils.)”4
Some things that you can’t pronounce are good for you. Tocopherols are just one of these. You know tocopherols by another name: Vitamin E. This powerful anti-oxidant has immune-supporting properties, hinders the production of certain kinds of carcinogens, and offers some protection to the vascular system.
Wheat starch may not be a significant risk to your toddler, but then again it may. Research indicates that modified starch and wheat starch may be key players in atherosclerosis.5 There is also frightening news that atherosclerosis may start in infancy!6
Annatto, like tocopherols, is a naturally-derived food colorant, an anti-oxidant, and is often used in other parts of the world as an herbal remedy for bowel issues and hepatitis. The amount that would be found in one serving of Cheerios is negligible and offers no health impact.
Niacinamide, calcium pantothenate (vitamin B5), and folate are all vitamins which offer a variety of benefits for the nervous system.
Iron, however, is a different story. Notice that it does not say what form the iron is in nor from what source it comes. You might be surprised about the questionable sources that are used in ‘iron-fortified’ foods. I first learned this about 20 years ago – and I doubted it – until I saw a video clip done by Bill Nye, The Science Guy. And, just in case you doubt it, here are instructions from the American Chemical Society so you can recreate the experiment at home.
In spite of what the American Chemical Society may say about the body’s ability to use elemental or metallic iron, I know of two widely divergent opinions on the subject of supplemental iron. One is well-documented and the other is from personal experience. First, let’s start with comments made on the Geritol website about which forms of iron are better. Keep in mind that the Geritol formula has not changed since it was originally created in the 1950s. When we say that carbonyl iron (a form of elemental iron) is naturally regulated by the body, what we really mean is that your body has mechanisms in place to help process this type of iron more easily. The body’s own gastric acid helps to metabolize carbonyl iron, providing for more gradual and gentle absorption than you might find with other types of iron. So, that sounds great. Right? That seems to echo, essentially, what the American Chemical Society says about using elemental or metallic iron. Second, let’s look at what one of my biology professors from university, whom we called Dr. Tom (and I’ve forgotten his last name – it was over 30 years ago after all) said about the iron in Geritol. He taught us that it is easily absorbed into the body but it is not easily assimilated into the cells. He cited several dissections he had done while completing his university degrees where the liver was full of rust – and the deceased had consumed the proper dosage of Geritol for many years. Just because iron supplements are easily absorbed into the gut does not mean they are properly utilized by the body and it also does not mean that that particular form of iron is safe!
What does all of this really mean? You, as a mom, need to be tri-lingual. You need to speak English, baby-ese, and chemical-ese in order to feed your children things that are truly nourishing.
My children’s favorite fingerfoods were organic O’s cereals, cut up in-season fruit, and Carob Crisp Balls. What is your favorite fingerfood for toddlers?
If you are having challenges feeding your toddler or just don’t know where to begin making improvements and would like some help, please contact me, Judith Cobb, to book an appointment. Skype, phone, webinar, and face-to-face appointments are available. I also invite you to Follow my website (cobblestonehealth.com) and Like us on Facebook (Cobblestone Health Ltd).
Copyright © 2015 by Judith Cobb, Cobblestone Health Ltd. All rights reserved. Please respect the time it takes to write and publish articles. If you will link to this article and give proper attribution, you are encouraged to quote sections (though not the entire article).