Can children survive without corn syrup?

School has started and that means that instead of us being able to struggle over cooking food that is both healthy and something our children will actually eat, we get to have the considerably harder task of trying to figure out what we can prepare for their lunches that they’ll then eat in school.
As is typical each year, we scour the local market’s shelves looking for food that’s able to survive in a lunchbox and pretty healthy and it’s astonishing to me just how hard a job that is.
For example, at the local corner market we saw that Chicken of the Sea was having a special on a mini-can of tuna, crackers, a container of fruit and a cookie, all in a nice portable package. So we bought a few of them for the kids to try… And sure enough, they kinda liked them, though neither was too thrilled with the tuna itself.
Upon reading the ingredients, I immediately understood why…


Every single thing in that container either had corn syrup or, even better, high fructose corn syrup. Even the tuna. Blech!
Indeed, it’s an interesting experiment to go to the local market and look at the ingredients in “children’s food”. With staggeringly few exceptions, everything has corn syrup added.
How, I ask, did children ever possibly survive in the age before corn syrup was so common?
Me, I remember having unsweetened foods like peanut butter (not the modern, processed, yes, corn syrup added varieties) and jelly sandwiches and a piece of fruit for my lunch as a kid. Nowadays while it may seem retro from our perspective as parents to give our children this kind of lunch, they’re surrounded by other kids who have processed this, packaged that and sweetened the other. It’s terrible.
If the food manufacturers were genuinely trying to create healthy food for our children to grow on, that’d be one thing, but it’s all about corporate profits. When we live in an age where “ketchup” is considered a vegetable, for goodness sake, it’s no surprise at all that the incident of childhood obesity and childhood diabetes is going through the roof too.
And meanwhile, every morning, there are two empty lunch boxes, yawning cavities waiting to be filled with something that’s both delicious and healthy. Sure, we could dump in some of the kind of foods that Linda and I eat every day, but there’s little more frustrating than at the end of the opening up a lunch box just to see that half the peach was eaten and everything else is still just sitting there. “I dunno, it didn’t look good, Dad.”
How do you deal with kid’s lunches? And, more generally, do you try to avoid corn syrup and similar sweetener additives too?

13 comments on “Can children survive without corn syrup?

  1. On the peanut butter thing.. we have a grocery store here called Winco that has a huge bulk foods section, and two of the things they offer are fresh peanut and almond butter – the machine grinds the nuts right there, and you get nuttin’ but nuts. (har har) Maybe you could check around and see if there’s something similar near you – WholeFoods maybe?

  2. Shylah, we’re in Boulder, Colorado, the home of more natural foods companies than just about anywhere else in the US. 🙂 Lots of choices, from the busiest Whole Foods in the United States to the home market of Wild Oats corporation to a terrific local market that we frequent called Vitamin Cottage (or “vitco” as I like to call it). Oh, and there’s a Boulder Coop Market, but it’s ridiculously overpriced for reasons that I find completely baffling.
    I’m more curious why the apparent vast majority of parents are okay feeding this kind of food to their children more than anything…

  3. Hi,
    We generally try to feed the kids food that are preservative, additive, number free. We are lucky here in Australia, that the less sugary, less chemically enhanced food is becoming more highly advertised and is replacing school meals also. I don’t send my kids to school (we home school) so we don’t have to compete with the others there.

  4. We are commercialized! We are sold on the stuff too.. Heck if you buy a lunchable for your self.. you buy one for your kid.. The kid only eats the cookies crumbles up the crackers and might eat the cheese and fling the little meat circle else where.. I found that buying processed food is due to lack of creativity. It about not understanding food or taking the time. We are fooled in to believing it is healthy by all the free media that is sent to our homes after giving birth to our sweet beings. All those baby Magazines, have loads of adds.. And of course I find it very rare that fruits and veggies are being advertised! Only junk food kits the cartoons and MTV video hype. I was pretty upset about the simalac(?) vitiman milk shake drink commercial where it taught my child to truly turn her nose up at brocolli! before they were cute little edible trees!
    So Basically WE are being convinced to try Food Fads! whats in! Instead of Whats been and whats needed..
    Even Adults Fall for it! Atkins was the adults version…
    There are some pretty good sights out there on making a healthy lunch look good.. Depends on the age on what you can get away with.
    That’s my spin on it ..
    Thanks for letting me have my say 🙂

  5. We buy the Kroger brand “natural peanut butter” and it is peanuts, a little salt, and oil. It tastes awesome too. Another thing to stay away from is any kind of partially hydrogenated oil. They are VERY bad for you (I think they are a carcinogen, but I can’t be too sure on that). As I won’t have a child until mid-December, I can’t help with the lunch thing, but I know that we follow strict rules on things like this (also we have VERY strict microwave rules) because I grew up in a house with parents that practice natural medicine and my father is a nutritionist, so we get all the good info.

  6. I am a stay at home dad so I have a lot more time to prepare dinner and lunch.So I do consider myself lucky. I started staying home about a year ago. Very soon after I began staying home I realized that we need to eat lots and lots less proccessed foods. So I got rid of the wrapped up granola bars and began making them myself. Not all that less fattening I don’t think but better fat for you. I used to buy lunchables for my 4yr. old. I got very sick and tired of fighting over the cookies. I then started to get the ones without snacks. Then I realized that they were going for 2 bucks a pop. I can buy a ham some ritz for much less. The ham is just a little better that the meat in the package. But I am sure it is better for your kids in the long run. So I stopped buying them and got ritz and my own ham instead. It is hard to pass by all that crap in the groceries and drive by all that drive thru crap as well. And we do indulge once in a while. But it is a treat. I do have to make an effort since it is so convenient though. Seriously. They are very convenient and hard to pass sometimes. It has taken us a while but, now it is no longer expected that we hit a drive thru every time we go out. The other thing that I like is that I am home and have time to prepare a good dinner full of veggies and lean protien and a glass of milk. I figure atleast if I do that then he is getting a good meal every day. I do laugh though. I think I driven my kids nuts. My four year old looks and looks and finds nothing of fun. So he ends up in the fruit bin in the fridge.
    We are not a media free home. But most of what he watches is not the fighing kicking junk advertising shows which dominate the T.V. these days. Mostly we watch P.B.S. Kids. So the pressure is a lot less to buy buy buy.

  7. Think tortilla wraps, they are fun to make if your a kid, and who wouldn’t eat food they made themselves.
    Tortilla, baby spinach leafs, CHEESE, mustard, ham slice, turkey slice, tomato…. roll it up, slice it into little sushi like rolls – mmmmmmm pretty!
    Or PB&J (Smuckers makes an organic Peanut butter now that contains peanuts and salt- yummy) get the ol’ cookie cutters out and make stars and circle sandwich puzzles.
    My toddler loves to dip bread sticks and crackers into things. Possible dips: hummus, mashed avacado, peanut butter, salsa, cottage cheese with cheddar shreds, and of course butter.
    Baby girl insisted we skip baby food and go straight to table food, so take it from this on the go short order cook that ALL of these keep pretty well if wrapped in tin foil and put in a lunchbox next to and ice pack.

  8. My son, who is going to be six, is a VERY picky eater. He has broad shoulders and has always been thick even as a toddler, but because of his diet has put on too much weight these past few years. I am slowly but determined to change that. Like you I have found that everything contains high fructose corn syrup and lots of fat. I live in Texas and we have HEB gorcery stores, they have a line called Central Market, it’s mainly organic and usually cheaper than most organic brands. Their peanut butter is made only of roasted peanuts; no salt. Target has their own brand of peanut butter made of peanuts and salt. I also swithced to whole grain breads for everything including buns, Sara Lee has them and their not to bad. If your into baking or making your own pancakes King Arthur brand has a whole wheat white flour that is not bitter like the red whole wheat flour. My kids did not mind the switch at all from the white flour. I went from white refined sugar to turbinado sugar but Im thinking of going to Stevia which is even better, except more expensive. That is the only problem with going whole and organic, you would think it would be cheaper since they are leaving things out. Also try something called Kefir, it’s like a drinkable yogurt except even better for you, although not for the lunchbox. My two and three year olds can’t get enough of the strawberry flavored. I definetly would look into seeing if there is a Whole Foods around you. Hope this helps.

  9. I have solved the problem to some extent by getting my kids to cook school meals for themselves the night before. They make things like Greek pasta salad, potato salad etc At the beginning of the week we look at cookbooks and plan and they eat it cos they chose it! They are 14 and 16 but started much younger.

  10. Its just insidious – highly-sugared food and drinks are being shoved at kids from every direction. Soda pops have become such a default beverage choice that nobody considers just how nutritionally void they are.
    We’ve become food label sleuths in our house. If sugar, corn syrup, or any derivative is one of the first 5 ingredients listed in a product, it usually stays on the store shelf. And I’m really diligent about promoting fiber- and protein-packed foods for my family.
    With regard to beverages, what’s equally disturbing is that, even with the sugar-free (or in the more trendy lingo of this decade, “low-carbâ€?) sodas, kids are getting boatloads of caffeine. Between the sugar and the caffeine getting dumped into kids daily, I sometimes wonder how many legitimate cases of ADD (or related syndromes) there are out there – maybe it’s just that we’ve got a nation full of jacked up sugar junkies running around out there!!

  11. i dont want to use high fructose corn syrup anymore and avoid buying anything with it but what do i replace it with in baking? such as in place of corn syrup for popcorn, or what about cool whip to make jello salads? some recipes call for corn syrup.. can you buy that alone? all that i have seen has HFCS in it also? any suggestions? i love to bake and try to make things healthy and from scratch as much as possible.

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