My son had his first preschool field trip last week. It was the first time he had been around other kids that had brought a lunchbox from home. Over the last few years we have educated ourselves and overhauled our food consumption at my house. We tend to eat fairly healthy things now, and we try to stay away from artificial sweeteners and food coloring, and anything with partially hydrogenated or corn syrup on the label. My general rule of thumb is if the label contains more than a few ingredients or something I can't pronounce I try not to buy it. Except for "cheesy poofs," which my son continually begs me to buy and I can't seem to say no. Maybe it's just the cute name he has for cheese curls, but for some reason my rules go out the window when it comes to cheesy poofs.
I was not prepared for the inevitable questions about food when my son returned from his field trip. "Mommy, Jimmy had a packet of red stuff he put in his water at lunch time. Can I have some of that?" Luckily, my husband, who actually started the healthy eating campaign at our house, picked up the charge. "Didn't you say that Jimmy got in trouble on the bus ride back to school? Sometimes when we eat things we shouldn't it makes us hyper and it's hard to control ourselves."
We've actually seen the evidence of this first hand. Our neighbor has a child that was having some behavior problems, but instead of medicating her they decided to try a diet change first. After cutting out foods with preservatives and food coloring, the child's behavioral problems went away. I wish more parents realized that there is a correlation between food and behavior, something I didn't realize myself until the last few years. I wonder how many children on Ritalin would be better served by a dietary overhaul instead.
"Besides," my husband told my son, "that red stuff is made from crushed up bugs." My husband teases my son all of the time, and I could see the look of disbelief on my sons face. "He's not kidding this time buddy," I chimed in. It is a little known fact that red food colorants called cochineal and carmine are made from crushed up bugs. Here's one of the many google references if you don't believe me. (I found it hard to believe too.)
Unfortunately, I can see where this is going to go. My son will go to school and tell the kids that there are crushed up bugs in their drinks. The kids won't believe him, and four year old arguments will ensue. A few kids may actually go home and discuss this with their parents, and the parents will tell their kids we made it up because we don't want my son drinking the red stuff. If only they all read my blog, then they would know the truth!
I'd like to say I've completely stopped eating anything red since I found out about this, but I just can't give up my ketchup. I'm afraid to look at the ingredients, so maybe right now I'll go with the philosophy that ignorance is bliss. Maybe if I decide to look I'll get lucky, and it will only be Red #40 on the ingredient list. That way I'd only be eating a coal derivative instead of bugs. Thank goodness we have the FDA to protect us from natural things like Stevia, but allow us to eat tar. But that discussion is for another blog.