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Healthy Nutrition for Kids: Smart Choices

By Kathryn Scoblick

Saturday October 24th the newspaper wrote a small paragraph on the Smart Choices Program titled "The food industry backs off labeling program." The paragraph reads:

Under pressure from state and federal authorities who feared misleading consumers, the food industry started backing away from a major labeling campaign meant to highlight the nutritional benefits of hundreds of products. Officials with the program said Smart Choices would suspend most of its operations while they waited for the Food and Drug Administration to devise regulations for package-front nutrition labeling.

Our nation is on a campaign of awareness whether it be creating awareness of autism, cancer or nutrition. If we are not aware, how can we form an educated mindset to back our belief system? Where are we getting our information and who is backing the findings? I can share with you that the food manufacturers are behind this Smart Choices program. We might find that a "junk cereal" gets a Smart Choice check mark on the front because it is low in fat and meets the other nutritional criteria recommended by the program. However, do they consider food colorings that are made from petroleum, high fructose corn syrup that is made with chemistry or preservatives BHT that is known to contribute to disease? The answers are found on the Smart Choices website ( and I included some information below:

  • To qualify for the Smart Choices Program nutrition symbol, products must meet specific nutritional benchmarks. For example, foods cannot exceed "nutrients to limit," including: total fat, saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, added sugars, and sodium. Additionally, products must include one or more "nutrients to encourage" or provide at least a one-half serving from at least one "food group to encourage."1
  • On average, only about 5% of the sugar consumed by U.S. children comes from ready-to-eat cereals, according to the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. Pre-sweetened cereals have been demonstrated to be a good source of vitamins and minerals for children. Studies around the globe have consistently shown that kids who eat breakfast have more physical and mental energy than those who do not. Cereal eaters are also more likely to have healthier body weights and greater vitamin and mineral intakes.2 3

To be fair, the labeling will help consumers make healthier choices within food categories, and to be normal, I believe we should all enjoy our favorite foods sometimes. However, just because cereal doesn’t have the amount of sugar as a soda (which is documented as the main source of extra sugar in many people’s diets), I am not sure that is a good reason to include junk cereal on a Smart Choices list. It is misleading, just like the government "feared". Now some foods within categories are better choices. For example, a Kashi granola bar is a better choice in granola bars than some of the others that have as much sugar as a candy bar. However, I am not going to buy into a program that only considers the label. I still recommend that you read ingredients.

Let’s take a look at bread crumbs and brown rice. Have you ever looked at the ingredients on the packaging of bread crumbs? Freak out! When is the last time you grated your own? Now, as much as I believe in whole grain bread, we consume more than our fair share of baguettes. With the leftovers, I let it get hard and then I grate it and stick the bread crumbs in an airtight container. Now I have bread crumbs without all of the preservatives and hydrogenated oil that packaged bread crumbs come with. The downside is obviously time, but hands down, homemade wins.

Whole grain brown rice is a winner. Follow the directions and you have a whole grain food with maybe a little salt and a little butter. You can cook plenty in advance and eat it during the week. This is a better choice than all of the packaged flavored rice for sale and it costs less. To change the flavor, cook it with chicken broth instead of water, or add slivered almonds, red bell pepper and raisins. Basically you can put anything in it that you like.

Whole foods are what we should be eating; not foods that require a check mark because the labeling is so confusing. The physical body is what God gave each of us to serve each other here on earth. The temptations are great and for some of us the temptation is food. Choose more fruits and vegetables. Add these to your diet and let them replace some of the other less healthy choices. Go for whole foods as much as you can. Remember that the next best choice to fresh fruits and veggies are frozen. Take the time to read ingredients and avoid hydrogenated oils, food coloring, and high fructose corn syrup. Don’t rely on the advertising claims on packaged foods. You will love yourself for making healthier choices. It feels great and it leads to healthier habits. Your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit!

Copyright By Kathryn Scoblick


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