Monday, April 28, 2014

wholefood step-by-step: # 17 phase out processed snacks

Walking on to River's schoolground one afternoon I picked up the wrappers pictured above that were blowing around the oval. I picked them up not to put them in the bin but because I wanted to read the list of ingredients.

To the majority of  parents at River's school me doing this would seem weird and a bit over the top, after all, it isn't really a big deal that kids eat snack food is it? Well, of course I do think it is a big a deal. A really big deal that so many people, children and adults are eating mainly foods from packets and that they think that there will be no impact on their health and well-being and that they don't give a moments thought to the environmental impacts of the earth's resources that go into creating the products and the packaging that they come in.

The way I see it, the problem isn't eating these foods once, or if there was one snack food in the lunchbox and the rest of the time it is fruit, vegetables and protein, no there are two problems as I see it:

1. The Myth of Moderation - this is really a post in itself but I will touch on it here. The old 'everything in moderation' is full of problems because one person's moderation is another person's overload and vice versa. The most accurate way to work out if your family is consuming something moderately or occasionally is to keep a food journal, I think you would be surprised to see how many snacks and 'treats' are sneaking in that are full of processed ingredients such as wheat, refined sugar and damaged fats that are not nourishing in any way.

2. The second problem that goes with this is the cumulative effect of eating non-foods or factory made foods. Sure everyone might be able to get away with eating a packet of chips or some other processed snack from time to time but the problem is that ingredients such as wheat, sugar and damaged fats are in just about every processed food on the supermarket shelf, even in ones you don't expect them to be - who expects chocolate to have wheat in it? or muesli to have sugar and vegetable oil in it? So, without even trying people who include processed foods daily in their diets are overloading their bodies with ingredients that impact their digestion and immunity and ultimately their overall health.

Using these two snack foods as examples let's take a look at the ingredients:

Dominion Naturals - Ropes. Strawberry, raspberry and blueberry flavoured. No artificial colours or flavours. No preservatives, gluten free and 99% fat free. That is the list of selling points on the packaging. Many people would read this and think its good, it is 'natural' and free of artificial nasties, it contains fruit and it is fat free (inference is that you won't get fat by eating it). A the very bottom of the nutrition table in fine print are the words: Fruit juice based confectionery. So, really these are lollies dressed up by marketers as something healthy. (Makes me cross!!) The ingredients: glucose syrup, sugar, fruit juice concentrate (18%), Gelatine, Gelling Agent (406), Thickener (1401), Acidity Regulators (330,296), Natural colours (140, 163, 120), Natural Flavours, Glazing Agent (903).

Sun rice mini bites creepy cheese. Delicious mini brown rice cakes, seasoned with tasty natural flavours that are the perfect bite-size to munch and crunch. Made with wholegrain brown rice. No artificial colours or flavours. Gluten free. Wholegrain brown rice, consumers think that's good isn't it? Ingredients: wholegrain brown rice (84%), seasoning (milk solids, salt, natural flavour, hydrolysed corn protein, yeast extracts, cheese powder, sunflower oil, acidity regulators (270, 327), sunflower oil. This product also has a logo on it that reads 'National Healthy School Canteen - Amber Compliant' which would give some parents an added reassurance that they are buying healthy food.

Processed snacks may be quick to throw in the lunchbox but with some planning ahead so are homemade snacks. By making some time each week to bake some muffins, make muesli bars, bliss balls, or even to bake cake and then freezing them you are providing your family with wholesome wholefood snacks that are vastly better for their bodies and minds and for the planet.

I can hear some of you sighing and thinking oh no another thing to do but I think it is so worth the time and effort. Good health is such a precious gift that deserves to be protected every chance we have. The problem with having a processed diet is that the effects take time to show up. With the dominance of commercially produced food that is presented to us daily in various settings, there has never been a more important time to be proactive and stay ahead with good health. Many people wait until they get sick to make changes to their diet and lifestyle. Don't wait to get sick for that to be your reason to make changes, prevention is much better than cure.

Take a moment to ask yourself why do you buy processed snacks, for convenience? because kids like them or ask for them? as treats?

If you buy them because your children like them or have asked you to buy them explain to them that you have learnt more about the ingredients in them and that they are not nourishing for their bodies and they do not help them to think and concentrate at school and that instead you will be making your own snacks to put in lunchboxes. If you like, you can then get your children involved in choosing some recipes and preparing the lunchbox snacks. If you would prefer to phase out the snacks rather than going cold turkey perhaps you could include a processed snack twice a week, Tuesday and Friday and then reduce it to one day and eventually none.

Here are some links to recipes to get you started with alternatives to processed snacks, once you get into the mindset that this is totally doable and that it is so worth it you won't even notice that you are doing it and you won't miss the so called convenience of processed snacks.

Six Healthy Biscuits for Lunchboxes
Ten Healthy Muffin Recipes
Carrot Cake Slice
Spiced apricot, orange and quinoa muesli bars
Muesli bars with dried cranberries and seeds
Raw chocolate bliss balls

Oh and by the way never feel guilty or embarrassed about where you are at on your food journey. The most important thing is that we are all doing the best we can with the time, money and knowledge we have. Make small adjustments as you go along. Modern living can be stressful enough as it is, don't add guilt to your plate, do what you can making small adjustments as your knowledge grows.

I wish you well with making this change. I think you will find it so satisfying to stop buying processed snacks I know I have. Xx


  1. Such sound realistic advice Nikki - keep up the great work. I've shared a link to this blog post on my FB page!

  2. Oh thanks Michelle I value your feedback and thanks for the share! The last thing I want is for readers to feel stressed about all the changes they think they have to make! Baby steps. x

  3. Kinda embarrassed that I have the plain (aka salted) version of those sun rice mini crackers in my pantry! I understand they are processed & thus not as nutritious as eating actual brown rice but what is it in particular that make these types of crackers not-so-good? I remember you mentioning this in the past but couldn't find the post. I figure it is because they are the equivalent of eating cardboard but if you could rehash or post some links that would be fantastic :) love your work as always! Much love xox

  4. No need to be embarrassed at all Audrey! I have soy milk and rice milk in my fridge that many wholefoodies would tell me is a no no but I'm not embarrassed I am just where I'm at. So, to answer your question these types of crackers are not so good, particularly these kind with salt on them because they are high in salt (and not good quality sea salt, though that needs to be eaten moderately too), they also contain naturally occurring MSG (anything with the words 'hydrolized protein' mean it contains MSG), the sunflower oil is damaged through being heated and is not good for the cells of your body, the ones in my example include 'cheese powder' which again has been highly processed to turn cheese into powder and finally these kinds of crackers can be hard to digest. Comparatively speaking they might not be as laden with chemicals and other fake ingredients as other snack foods so perhaps they are a better option if you don't mind your family eating processed snacks occasionally. Thanks for your feedback I'm glad you are enjoying this series and hope you are feeling well! Xx

  5. I mostly bake, but at the moment stock brown rice cakes (the palm size ones), rice or corn cruskets and carmans yummo bars - as back up for times when there is no time or I am unorganised.

    Any advice on what to keep in the pantry for 'those' times?

    Thank you :)


Thanks for your comments. I read every one!

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