Mini-Pledge Week 13: Nothing Artificial

This is one of the last “real foodmini-pledges before we reach our goal of 100 days! I did save some of the more difficult pledges for last, but I thought I would be nice and squeeze in an easy one near the end as well. At least I hope this one is easy for those of you who are reading a blog about eating real food!

So here is next week’s mini-pledge, which starts on Monday:

Mini-Pledge Week 13: Avoid all artificial ingredients including, but not limited to: sweeteners, flavors and colors.

One quote from Michael Pollan’s In Defense of Food pretty much says it all:

One of the problems with the products of food science is that, as Joan Gussow has pointed out, they lie to your body; their artificial colors and flavors and synthetic sweeteners and novel fats confound the senses we rely on to assess new foods and prepare our bodies to deal with them. Foods that lie leave us with little choice but to eat by the number, consulting labels rather than our senses.

Another issue with artificial foods is that, just like other highly processed foods, they’re relatively new and therefore we don’t know exactly how their consumption affects the body long term.  Remember how margarine was touted as a healthy alternative to butter when decades later we learned the dangers of  hydrogenated oils?

This mini-pledge reminds me that I’ve been wanting to share the difference between “natural” and “organic” food products. Packaging and labels can be so darn confusing these days! When a product says it is “natural” it just means that the ingredients come from something naturally created like a plant or an animal. If a product weren’t “natural” it could contain artificial ingredients like Red Dye #40 that’s chemically created or “invented” by food scientists in a lab somewhere. Sound appetizing yet? “Organic” food is a whole different story and refers to products that have not been treated with synthetic fertilizers or chemical pesticides, which is of course a very good thing.

Just for the record, whether you are buying food that is “all natural” or “organic” it does not mean those products are whole grain, low in sodium, or lacking loads of sweeteners like sugar. To put things in perspective, high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is actually a “natural” ingredient since it is made from corn. Now if given the choice I would much rather consume HFCS over an artificially created sweetener like Splenda, but it is obviously still less than ideal. With that being said, natural products are a far better choice than artificial ones although we would by no means automatically deem them as being “real food.”

So I am hoping this pledge won’t be too difficult because we aren’t asking you to go full force with “real food,” but instead to just avoid the items that are basically fake. And hopefully this week-long experience will be eye opening for you as far as how many products contain these fake, artificial additives. Even most cough syrups, children’s Tylenol products, and throat lozenges contain artificial ingredients! So be on the lookout next week and avoid all additives that were “invented” within the last century and instead stick to those trustworthy ingredients that our ancestors have survived on for thousands of years!

To take the pledge: Please leave a comment below with the number of adults and children in your household that will participate, and also share if you will do it for one meal, one day, or for the entire week. Put it in writing and make it official!

Good luck!

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  • Comments

    1. sheri |

      my biggest gripe when i started trying to avoid dyes and artificial sweeteners was trying to buy medication for my kids without these additives!!!! i try not to give them medication unless truly warranted anyway, but to find a pain reliever or cough medicine without aspartame or sucralose and especially without some sort of dye in it is impossible! medicine doesn’t taste good anyway, why try to oversweeten it or pretend that just because it’s pink it’s going to taste better??? not only that, but even to find a chewable multivitamin without aspartame is quite difficult…uuuggghhhh!!!! this is a challenge we are up for, 2 adults and 3 kids!

    2. |

      I will take the pledge for the week!

    3. |

      I’m so glad to see this pledge! I’ve shared our family’s experience with Lisa, but maybe sharing it here will help someone struggling as we were. Our 5 yr old daughter was showing signs of ADHD symptoms for years. She could never be still, talked constantly, couldn’t finish her sentences, the list goes on and on. When she started having issues in her pre-k class I began researching alternatives to ‘traditional’ ADHD treatments – those drugs just weren’t something I was willing to try. I learned that my daughter didn’t have ADHD, she had a chemical sensitivity to the additives in her food. We cut out all food dyes, artificial flavorings, BHT, and all other petroleum products from our home – which meant changing even our toothpaste, shampoo, and detergents. Within 2 days of switching to all natural products we had a different daughter. She sat in her chair and finished her dinner for the first time ever! She talked to me about her day, she wasn’t irritable or aggravated over every little thing. We used to have to use time outs several times daily, and since starting this program we haven’t had a single one. It was a life changing discovery for us and we’re so thankful to have a resource like 100 Days of Real Food to help cheer us on! Eating a completely natural, organic diet can be daunting these days, but once you know what those chemicals are doing to your family you will never question whether it’s worth the effort. If you are a parent you should do this pledge! I’d love to hear if anyone notices a difference in their children’s well-being after doing this. And if you need resources for all-natural products I’d be happy to help – goodness knows I’ve done the research!

      • Bethany |

        Susan, thanks for sharing that story. My husband was diagnosed with ADHD and ODD when he was a child and he has very poor eating habits. Reading that made me wish that his mother had tried the same on him when he was still young and his palette was more paletable (sp?) I have tried to get him to eat better but 30 years of habits are hard to break when you don’t think they are a problem. Hoping that I can do better myself so that our future children will be better for it. I’m about 5 weeks behind on the mini-challenges but will be doing this one for sure when I get to it.

      • Shalene |

        My 5 yr old daughter has Sensory Processing Disorder, and I have noticed in the approximately 5 weeks that we have adjusted our diet to rule out all refined sugar and most refined flour (I still go for convenience sometimes, I admit) and the artificial food dyes, that many of her symptoms have calmed. She is more able to fall asleep at night without getting up numerous times in the night (which NEVER happened before); she isn’t as prone to emotional meltdowns, and when she does have them, she is soothed much more quickly; and she is actually eating things she could never tolerate tasting or having in her mouth before. (Now to just get her to see the value. She is still so young that she just thinks I’m depriving her of the sweets she used to be able to have.) :)

      • jen |

        Susan thank you for sharing. I would love to hear about your researching. We are in the process of going organic and chemical free in the home, due to some severe health issues one of my daughters is experiencing.

      • Stacey |

        Susan, similar experience with us. My 5 year old daughter has always been “difficult”. Very sensitive to her world, her environment, prone to extreme meltdowns over trivial things. In September, it had gotten to the point where I was ready to take her to see a behavioral therapist. Sure enough, I started researching online regarding this type of behavior in children and came across Lisa’s blog as well as numerous articles about the American processed diet and how it relates to ADHD, etc. I thought, it’s worth a try. As soon as we started cutting out the processed foods, her behavior improved considerably. October and November was literally like living with a different child. I have been amazed at the difference in her. At first, my husband couldn’t believe that it could be the food we were eating, but now that he has seen the difference, he is totally on board with the lifestyle changes. It makes sense that a child that is sensitive in so many other ways would be sensitive to what goes into her body. I am so grateful that I was able to find useful information. And I have started making it my mission to tell everyone I know with young children about what I have learned. If I can help one other family to “see the light” it will be worth it!

        • lisa |

          Hi Stacey,

          I have a 10 year old daughter who has and continues to have similar symptoms since she was very young. I have always felt that something was just not right with her, but the doctors could never find anything. She is overly sensitive, has a hard time calming herself down when she has a meltdown, has gained quite a bit of weight over the last couple of years even with being extremely active and just seems tired and cranky most of the time.
          I would be extremely grateful if you could help me with my journey to get her off of all of the “bad” stuff and hopefull get her back to happy and healthy naturally.

      • Michelle |

        This is the easiest of the pledges for my family. As we too stopped eating anything artifical for my son. Turns out he was allergic to food colouring and has a sensitivty to many additives. With the removal of the ‘extras’ from his diet he changed for the better no need for any ‘drugs’. Still hard, when we go out to others homes people do not believe that additives can makes such a change in a person, however when people sneak food to him they quickly realize why our family is artifical free.

      • Lindsey |

        Our son has improved behavior, concentration etc since we removed dyes from his diet. We know for certain if some has been consumed and now we see BHT causing him problems. It’s time to cut all junk out!!

    4. cheryl henning |

      I am up for the challenge. We actually are pretty crunchy already- but I give in when I’m tired or it’s super busy and stop by a drive thru, or if it’s at a party, I let them have the chips, and junk everyone else is having. So- at home, we are good. Out and about- another story. So this week- I will commit to being prepared with alternatives for when we are out and about so I don’t compromise!

    5. HRK |

      I am with you Bethany, I have a 30 year old man who ate horribly as a child and trying to get him to change has been tough, but this is definitely a challenge I am willing to take on. Thank you! We are in!

    6. HBohanan |

      Yesterday I had a cup of coffee at a hotel breakfast bar. I was happy to see they had honey packets. Except when I read them they were “honey sauce” packets. Ingredients? Honey, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Sweetener, Sugar and Coloring. Really. yes, really! In that order.

      It is really hard to find “pure” whole food products. Thanks for listening to my little rant. And I’m in with my three kiddos…to try eat nothing artificial this week!

      • 100 Days of Real Food |

        Wow…that is unbelievable about the honey!

    7. Shari |

      This one is going to be HARD! It seems everything (except what comes from our garden!) has flavors or colors…or something added to it! Even things labeled “Certified Organic” have “Natural Flavors” in the ingredient list. And will the company tell you what that means…? I’ve had NO luck! We will do our best this week – 1 adult, 1 child. Today is CSA farm pick-up day & I just stocked up on my locally grown, grass fed beef & chicken. Hopefully, we’ll make it. :-)

    8. |

      I’m in….hate all the artificial dyes and I hate it even more that we can’t get them to ban them in the US. And they have the recipes/technology…they are banned in Europe and they sell many of the same products.
      xo jana

    9. |

      I’m in! 2 adults and 3 kids for the whole week. I think this one will be pretty easy for us at this point. (Never thought I’d say that, though!)

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