Processed, shelf-stable, palm, (gasp!) seed oils, and food dyes. For the love of science, I am a huge fan of these foods for my family.
Before you go ahead and call child protective services (Karen), let me explain why I feed my kids processed foods and why you should stop clutching your pearls and judging others.
Processed foods have been vital for my son.
That’s right. Processed foods saved his life. He has had food allergies to milk and eggs since birth. He needed a very processed formula to gain weight and thrive. As he’s gotten older, processed foods give normalcy to my kiddo. Oreos? A safe food. Pop-tarts? A delicious, safe food. Marie Calendar fruit pies? Accidentally vegan and a safe option for a normal thanksgiving.
Moreover, processed foods are often more affordable and longer-lasting than fresh produce. This makes them more accessible to people who live in food deserts, far away from grocery stores, and budget-conscious people. Not everyone has three farmers’ markets and five grocery stores in a twenty-minute radius. Here in Fairfield County…We. Are. Spoiled. We take for granted that we have access to and affordability for various foods.
Even if neither of my kids had food allergies, I’d still give them processed food.
Processed food is good. It has nutrients, and it has value. My daughter loves Lucky Charms cereal. Lucky Charms helps my picky eater enjoy her breakfast and gives her iron, folate, vitamin B12, and whole grains. Most importantly, for any mom of a picky eater, it gives her calories.
Too often, we give moral value to the things we eat. Good food, clean food, and pure foods are put on a pedestal. Who among you has heard, “Don’t eat ingredients you can’t pronounce,” or “The more ingredients, the worse for you?” Guaranteed the mom on Instagram, sharing that doesn’t have any background in nutrition or food science. I couldn’t pronounce acai for about two years; does that mean I shouldn’t eat it?
Unless you have an allergy to a food, it’s not toxic. Unless a food has spoiled, it’s not “bad.” Everything is fine in moderation, including enjoying and integrating processed foods into your and your kids’ diet.
I will continue to (attempt) to feed my kids a varied diet. This includes processed, fresh, frozen, and canned foods. They’re at an age now where I feed them what they’ll eat. I get calories and nutrients into them. Do they eat enough fresh fruits and vegetables? Absolutely not. (Show me a three and 5-year-old who do, and I will give you $50. Comment your Venmo and photographic proof). I still offer these foods and never put a moral value on them. Often I hear about feeding your kids the rainbow. For my kids, strawberries fall into that rainbow, and so do gummy snacks.