Let me ask you this: Have you looked at the ingredients on a food label lately? Like, really looked? Have you read the ingredients on popular brands of cookies, cereals, or junk/snack foods?
And if I came and rooted through you cupboards (don’t worry, I’ll turn a blind eye to your stash of chocolate…cause I’ve got one of those too #HandsOffTheChocolate), do you have any of those ingredients in your house? Do you even know what all/any of those ingredients are? #WhatAreWeEating
There are a ton of artificial, chemical, “junky” ingredients in foods these days. If you see an ingredient called “artificial flavour,” what exactly is it? (And should you even be eating it?) This may surprise you (cause it did for me) – but for the most part, it’s a secret! Big food companies don’t want their proprietary flavours to be known, so they’re allowed to say “artificial flavour” and leave the details out. Crazy right?!?
That alone gets me hot under the collar! But what makes me more upset is what artificial flavours represent when they’re in your food and the foods you may be feeding your kids.
Are you ready to get real?
When you make an apple muffin at home, what gives it the apple flavour? Apples of course! Like real, whole, chopped or shredded apples or applesauce. That’s a no brainer…
But, let’s say you’re a big food company and you’re making thousands of apple muffins every day. In a factory. On an assembly line. How would you process the huge amount of apples that are to be chopped, grated or made into applesauce? Would you have a separate “Apple Room” where all the apple processing happens? What if one batch is slightly riper, or tastes slightly different from the rest? Will your customers notice a different taste? And since apples are perishable – they go bad. So how would you guarantee the apples won’t go bad?
And what if you can have an apple flavour that tastes better than using real apples? Something that makes people want to keep buying them every week. Did you know that some of the artificial flavours are engineered to give an even better taste than the real food? They spend millions of dollars on research and scientists to study the 3 pillars – salt, sugar and fat – and to also determine things like crunch, and how fast the ‘food’ dissolves in your mouth (to help trick the brain into thinking no calories have been ingested). Their ultimate goal is the “bliss point”.
Wait. It gets better…to mask the bitterness or sourness that the formulations can cause, the companies will use flavour enhancers – invisible ingredients that trick the brain into tasting something that isn’t there, and not tasting something that is there. And many ingredients in processed food have nothing to do with taste. They’re there to reproduce a certain texture, to control the moisture level, to keep the various ingredients from separating and spoiling during the months that they will sit on the shelves. Ingredients like that are bundled under what may seem like relatively innocuous labels like ‘natural flavours’ or ‘artificial flavours,’ – tastes and smells that feel real but in reality are completely artificial.
And since we’re being real, let’s be perfectly clear. Artificial is just a fancy word for FAKE. Would you feed your kids fake food if that was listed on the label? I doubt it!
At the end of the day, companies will often opt for the easier and the more profitable – artificial flavours last longer and will be virtually identical batch after batch. In our apple muffin example, artificial flavours used to make an apple muffin are ready to go, so you don’t need to peel, cut, or worry about apples going brown, or that they’re not tasting “appley” enough.
Oh, and it’s WAAAAAAAY cheaper than using real, whole apples.
And what about safety?
While there are some flavours banned for use in many countries, other countries allow them. There is an approved list of flavours that are accepted to be safe, and are used by the food industry. They are considered GRAS, or “generally recognized as safe.”
Even if they are 100% safe to ingest, the mere fact that an artificial flavour is in food makes it fake food. It’s not a real, whole food. Having an artificial flavour as an ingredient almost defines that food to be a processed, “food-like” product. For me, artificial flavours in food indicate that the food, regardless of the marketing, or health claims, is not a healthy choice. Don’t be fooled. They are not added to improve the “healthfulness” or nutrition of the food. They are meant to have you buy more and eat more. End of story.
Yes, cooking and baking can take time. And yes, your time is already stretched paper thin with everything you are responsible for. Believe me, I get it. 4 kids, a husband with his own business and my own work – it’s not easy. It’s always a balancing act to figure out what takes priority – but your health, and that of your kid(s) needs to be protected and supported. Making the time – even if that means the house stays dirty for another day – is so important. And maybe as a first step, you consider only purchasing snacks that don’t contain anything fake. You don’t need to overhaul everything at once. Start with swapping out 1 or 2 items and work your way up. You can do this!
“The greatest wealth, is health.”
Recipe (All-natural): Apple Muffins*
*These are not your typical flour muffins. Delicious for sure, but not particularly light/fluffy.
- 1 cup quick oats, uncooked
- 1-1.5 tsp cinnamon
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1 cup cooked quinoa
- 3 tbsp maple syrup
- 1 cup chopped apples
- 3 eggs, lightly beaten
- 1/2 tsp vanilla
- Preheat oven to 350F.
- In a large bowl, mix the quick oats and cinnamon and baking powder.
- Add the quinoa and mix again.
- Add maple syrup, apples and eggs, and vanilla and mix until just combined.
- Place 12 muffin liners into a muffin pan. Fill each muffin cup about ⅔ of the way full
- Place in oven and bake for about 25 minutes.
Serve & enjoy!
Tip: Before baking, sprinkle each muffin with a touch of cinnamon for extra (natural) flavour.