The following is a chapter from my book, Make Nutrition Fun: Make Nutrition Fun: End Food Fights and Find Family Peace in Just 30 Days.
You’ll read the story of how I taught my own children about the importance of reading labels and understanding additives in foods.
You’ll also get links to additional resources on making nutrition fun for your own family.
Here’s the chapter excerpt:
“Come on. Time to leave!” Jeff said as he finished packing up the car. We were planning a trip to the Grand Canyon, and we had many hours of driving ahead of us, including inevitable stops for snacks at gas stations.
I was ready with my car games.
“Okay, kids! Our first game is Food Ingredient Scavenger Hunt. You’ll see the list of items on the first sheet in the activity packet I just handed you.”
“There are bugs in our food?” my older child Elena asked. She is a fast reader.
“Yes! You are going to be looking for the word ‘carmine’ at our first gas stop. The first one to find it gets five points!”
“Gross, Mom! The sheet says that the carmine is made of cochineal extract from the female Dactylopius coccus costa ” Her voice be- gan to rise. “They are harvested mainly in Peru and the Canary Islands. The girl bugs eat pink cactus pads, and the color gathers in their bodies and eggs. Once harvested, dried, and ground, these bugs make their way into things like yogurt, frozen fruit bars, and fruit juice.”
Alexander wanted to one-up his sister. “So what? A little bug juice never hurt anyone.”
“Alexander! It says that carmine can cause allergic reactions in some people.”
We got to our first gas station. To the dismay of all the customers, and certainly, the guy working behind the counter, my kids ran in the door yelling, “Dead bugs! We’re on the lookout for dead bugs!”
Elena was the winner of this round. She emerged from the gas station with a plastic-wrapped cookie—Grandma’s brand—in her hands. She was very proud of her find. She held onto that cookie for dear life throughout the entire round trip as it crumbled inside of the packaging. She was excited to show the bug cookie to her friends and teacher when she returned home.
“I can’t believe Grandma put dead bugs in her cookies,” Jeff said as we drove past that same gas station on the way back from the Grand Canyon.
“Yeah, Mom. We’ll stick with your homemade ones from now on,” my kids said to me as I smiled stealthily in the front seat.
Have a game of try-and-find-its, but beware of gas station riots
Here’s a link to more information about how to do the “Ingredient Spelling Test”.
Can you come up with a scavenger hunt game that makes food education, shopping, cooking, or even traveling fun? The more we can be playful in our education, the more the lessons will sink in.
It is important to recognize that allergens in food are something to consider as a factor in your child’s behavior. People have asked me during talks I’ve given on nutrition, “What’s the problem with the bug additives?” The answer is nothing unless you or your family members are allergic to it. I have heard about a child having an anaphylactic reaction (when the airways are cut off ) in her car seat after eating food with the carmine additive. Allergies, both acute and chronic (like food intolerances), are things to be aware of. If you’d like to learn more about allergies and food sensitivities, I’d love to invite you to listen to a few interviews I’ve conducted with parents and experts on this topic. Visit the links below:
My interview with Amy Hager, Registered Dietitian, Nutritionist, Certified Diabetes Educator, and Certified Wellness Coach.
In my interview with Ginger Hudock, a holistic nutrition consultant, we talked about food sensitivities and much more.
For parents with extremely sensitive babies, I suggest my interview with Trisha Hughes. Trisha helped her highly allergic baby heal from severe allergies by applying the GAPS diet.