The Effects of Organic Food and Typical American (Junk) Food on Children

Yesterday, we went to my sister-in-laws for the holiday meal. We took a broccoli and beef dish, zucchini with pepper jack cheese, a vegetable muffin with cashews and Hubby’s famous pasta salad (a regular recipe and an organic one he made for us).

Alex and I ate only the organic versions, as usual. Hubby (also as usual) sampled some of the typical fare. He usually eats organic with us, but occasionally eats regular food when he’s out. He doesn’t go nuts, though. Since we have started eating organic, he says he only really misses two things — bread and ham. I bake bread occasionally, but he’s SOL on the ham (simply out of luck, that is). So he ate ham at dinner.

He and Alex hated missing out on ice cream, so we got a machine and I make vanilla from organic cream and milk with organic vanilla and local honey.

We pack Alex’s lunch so she doesn’t eat the crap at school — have you SEEN the lunch menus lately?!?! And my seven-year-old reads the labels on her food herself and if she can’t pronounce it, or if she doesn’t know what it is, she doesn’t eat it. It’s pretty amazing.

Anyway, there’s the background and after Thanksgiving dinner, we went to visit my friend, Daphne. A member of her family was seriously ill and in the hospital in Lexington. Alex wanted to stay with Daphne and I said no. So she (*being a 7-year-old girl who had not had dessert on Thanksgiving*) said she wanted to stay and eat the food she really wanted with Daphne, not the old organic junk I made her eat…Now that was the first time she’d ever really complained about organic. Which, I guess should have been taken into account. We’ve been eating like this for several months now — since the end of June. But, it ran ALL over me. I was upset.

I told Hubby I wanted to take her to the grocery store on our way home and let her get the junk food she wanted. She was delighted. She got pop tarts, grape colored breakfast cereal, hi-C to drink and grape carbonated soda, cream horns, hot dogs, bologna, relish, cherry turnovers, Vienna sausage, potted meat, potato chips, chip dip and everything else she could find that I’d said no to before.

Quietly, Hubby and I made a bet. I bet him that it would make her ill. He asked if I meant make her tummy feel bad or physically ill enough to throw up. I felt she would have a violent reaction, after all, I was reading the labels on what she was selecting! The stuff that’s considered safe and is marketed at our children.

I was honestly embarrassed to be checking out, but I’d watched others check out the same type of items every time I went to the store. Why did I feel so guilty?

Maybe it’s because I read the label on the blue Hi-C — did you KNOW that there are esters of wood rosin in blue Hi-C??? Well there are! Right there on the label. People really should learn to READ labels before stuffing things into their mouths, IMHO.

She got to eat whatever she wanted and as much of it as she wanted. Today, she had no vegetables, nothing organic. And, in my humble opinion, she ate no “real food” or anything even remotely similar. But, she ate exactly as she pleased. Nothing was off limits except my old “organic junk.”

On the way home, she had Vienna sausages and chips, cream horns and grape soda.

Today, she ate pop tarts for breakfast and a cherry turnover. For lunch, a hot dog and chips with dip and cream horn with a glass of blue Hi-C. For dinner another hot dog (she didn’t want to open the bologna yet) and more chips with the dip that she said she really liked and more of the funky colored drinks.

Today, my daughter literally bounced off the walls. It was amazing the difference in her behaviour, her lack of attention span, her unwillingness to mind or even listen.

Hubby and I joked that the schools would love to deal with her now and we wondered at the fact that they deal with children that eat like this every day!

She was a nightmare, and ended up having to stand in the corner twice in one day for misbehaviour. Hubby and I couldn’t remember the last time she’d had to stand in the corner at all, much less twice in one day!

Late this afternoon, she said her tummy felt angry. But then it passed. This evening, she went to bed without fussing, but was still overly active.

We discussed her activities and her behavior, and our bet. Hubby said that I couldn’t be right all the time, laughing, and said I’d just have to settle for being right most of the time.

At one a.m. Alex woke me up. She’d thrown up in her bed several times trying to get to the bathroom. She was upset. I asked her what happened and she said that she thought her tummy wasn’t used to the new food and that it made her sick.

So Alex is in on the couch tonight, with a garbage can nearby and I’m washing her bedclothes at 1:30 a.m., but my theory is proved. It was just a few hours ago (in the afternoon) that maybe it didn’t really matter, that maybe I was just being extreme about demanding no additives, no artificial colors & flavors, no preservatives, etc for her. I was surprised she could eat all that junk without a backlash. The backlash came, but I’m still surprised it took a full day.

I believed that junk was bad. I knew that eating that way couldn’t possibly be healthy or good or even acceptable — especially in young children — even if “everyone else” is doing it.

And, more importantly, I think Alex has learned a bit about the value of the organic choices we make as a family. She asked me if she could have the organic stuff tomorrow.

For some reason, she doesn’t even want to open up the grape cereal, potted meat or the bologna at all. Go figure. She wants to feed the hot dogs to Zoe (our dog).

Maybe it’s wrong to have let this happen. Maybe mothers are supposed to protect their children from themselves. Maybe I should have continued to do just that.

But I think that tough love is sometimes necessary. And how could it be cruel or wrong to let my child eat the stuff that everyone else’s kids eat every day? The crap that television (which she doesn’t get at home, but watched while celebrating Thanksgiving) pushes at our kids? Hmmmmm….

Of course, this won’t be happening again. I’m throwing out the junk the moment I wake up tomorrow. Better yet, I may have Alex do it. I just hope that this teaches her something that my own actions couldn’t. Somehow, I think it has. I sure hope so. I hope this one incident is memorable enough that she thinks of it when she has the hard choices to make later when she shops for herself.

I did crawl back in bed long enough to tell Hubby that Alex was ok and was resting comfortably. He said he was glad I cleaned it up. I told him that was ok, since he would be cooking and cleaning up the kitchen alone for several days, after losing the bet. I also told him it was nice to not have to settle.

He asked, “settle for what?” And I said “settle for being right MOST of the time.” He groaned and rolled over grumbling some kind of prediction about me being unbearable after this.

LOL. Yeah, he’s probably right. But I have to wonder, for the kids that eat this every day, and build up a resistance to it… what are the long-term health effects?