Corn Queen part 2 of 3 by Child Grower: Annita Woz

avacadofeetMy husband has taken to calling me the Corn Queen after my subsequent manic food label reading frenzy.

Part 1 of this series covered Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma and a bookclub discussion where I learned all about corn.  I mean, Pollan’s book had me thinking about farming, subsidies, corn-fed cows which become corn-filled meat and I had pondered, but turned quickly away from the idea, that I might have to give up the typewriter style eating fest of deliciously yellow summer sweet corn.

I also learned that essentially, the addition of corn in some form of processed sugar or as a staple in the diet of the animals we consume has successfully put to use all the corn over-production that is going on across the U.S.  I love farmers but this might be a stretch even for me to support this corn crazed dietary system.

I learned about corn filled food creations like yogurt, bread and cereal which I didn’t think contained corn until reading the ingredient labels and seeing all the versions of corn syrup that make the convenient food world go’round.

I hadn’t recognized that corn can be listed on the ingredients label as High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) or plain corn syrup and often it is called other things like sucrose, dextrose, fructose and many more, unpronounceable, unnaturally created ingredients.

Mostly, the lesson in Part 1 of the Corn Free post, was about recognizing the need to provide food for our growing children from sources that are nutrient dense and simple foods that are delicious because they are fresh and not processed, packaged or prepared with 10+ tablespoons of sugar. The interview with Barbara Stitt’s formerly of Natural Ovens, educated me on the concept that Plain Jane style food is delicious, affordable and will promote well behaved kids because they feel good fueled with real food.

I began at home. Home is where the heart disease is. I tossed boxes into the trash if the label listed high fructose corn syrup or plain old corn syrup near the top of the ingredient list. I cold not believe where I was finding it either- in tomato soup! in bread! in ketchup! in my half-and- half! What was shocking was how little remained in the cupboard after the purging.  Stitts had warned me that not only was I eliminating unwanted sugars, but I was also tossing additives, food dyes, preservatives, hydrolyzed this, stabilized that and the odd container of may-or-may-not-contain-one-or-more-of-the-following in the ingredient list.  

I imagine these ingredients may someday be linked to behavioral issues, attention issues, emotional disorders and I know they have already been linked to increased rates of childhood obesity and diabetes in children.   

The Corn Queen’s first test was to take the real eaters in the house and turn them into guinea pigs to test whether feeding them good food could result in good behavior at school. I sent my kids to school with carrots that still had their greens attached, the tail root still showing, no chopping or peeling required and clearly labeled organic in the grocery aisle.  I did manage to run them under water and get the dirt off of them but you know when I was a girl, I just pulled them out of the garden and wiped the dirt off on the front of my shirt and ate them. Sorry Dad, we did not have that many rabbits…yes, I stole many carrots from the well-weeded rows and confess I may have been HFCS avoider way back then. 

So, you know what I’m talking about, right- the carrots that still have the two foot long green leafy stem part attached that usually gets cut off after pulling them out of the ground and before a big machine chops up the full size carrots into the stubby ones that they get away with calling baby carrots- all parts were sent in the lunch box.

Yup, reports were filed at the end of the day.  My children told me they enjoyed the carrots and the best part was that they loved whapping each other with the long green stems!

Well, so much for good food eliminating bad behavior problems.  My whole purpose for switching was to get well fed, cooperative kids who not only felt better but behaved better.  But then my daughter said, “They were awesome carrots mom, can you send more tomorrow?”

And while I was at it, this crazy corn queen, maybe I should be the anti-corn queen (?) browsed the upper shelf looking for whole wheat hot dog buns without HFCS.  It took me fully 10 minutes of searching, reading, rejecting, up and down an entire aisle before it hit me. Oh yeah, let’s serve some all natural, high sodium, unidentified processed “meat” dog on a nutrient dense bun! I started laughing out loud at myself right there in Millers.

Well, I still think I might be on to something.

Next week I am going to see what else I spy in the grocery store. I hear going around the outside is best. Produce, milk, eggs, cheese, yogurt, even meat- all located on the outside wall of the store…focus on the packaging that nature gave it.  Hmmm. I also know I am supposed to read the labels on packages to see if all the ingredients are recognizable.  Real food has very few ingredients actually and the ones on the list should also be things that I would already have at home like flour (not bleached but whole wheat) and plain old sugar (not corn syrup or hfcs or sugar substitutes ) and milk and eggs (not partially hydrogenated anything).  I had been told that buying fresh automatically eliminates ingredients like additives and preservatives. Could it be this simple?

The next biggest change I made was to chuck the syrup. First ingredient, HFCS. I was mortified. Here I was making pancakes, cornbread, waffles, all from scratch and then I had been pouring the HFCS-potentially-mercury-laden liquid gold all over them. Then I saw the price of real maple syrup and did a double take. We compromised on two less expensive bottles of maple syrup- one that is half honey and one that has cane sugar instead of corn syrup and one jug of the pure stuff. Taste tests on waffles were planned for Monday’s breakfast.

The jury is still out on whether this is truly a choice that a fresh HFCS spying Corn Queen needs to make because now my kids love the real mapley flavored syrup and won’t go back to the bargain stuff.  My husband… not so much. But then I don’t worry about his emotional state or his behaviors. Why try and change him when I know I can at least save the children and the Corn King will still be the kind of guy who can eat whatever he wants because truthfully, he already knows that daily exercise might be more beneficial than just eating in fear of the label.

Has anyone tried this kind of  ’round the outside of the store grocery shopping? Anyone tried this kind of searching for real food? Anyone noticed how your kids are behaving or if they are feeling differently at all?

Next week, Part 3. The eggs or the chicken.


4 Responses

  1. Your revelation is interesting to me. Who would have ever thought that we can promote carrots as weapons for kids??? Every kid I know would be eating them! My son would have loved it when he was a little guy. haha

    For years my husband and I have shopped “round the outside” of the grocery store. We always wondered who buys stuff in the other aisles. I think our eating habits stemmed from the ’60’s for my husband (he had hippie tendencies) and, for me, from my grandmother who was an Italian immigrant. I watched her prepare foods from the garden, pick dandelions from the yard and create meals from nothing. I could have nothing in my refrigerator and Grandma could make a meal.

    It does take much more preparation time. But I always viewed that as quality family time. Sundays are usually cooking day. We prepare many meals for the week since we are both working. Then we package them in portions and freeze what will be eaten later in the week.

    Last year at this time we were living in New Zealand for 5 months. While there we went to the farmer’s markets and bought fresh sea food whenever we passed stands. I loved eating this way!

    I think what you are doing is great. Keep us posted!

  2. Thanks, friend! I love to cook, and I rarely eat the bad stuff, however my kids just ‘look’ at it and say “I’ll have cereal tonight” Yes, most cereal has corn syrup in it and mine add even more table sugar). It ends up with me eating the whole pot of soup or whatever it is– okay I have learned to freeze it and give lots away to friends because I come frm a large family and I don’t know how to cook smaller pots of soup, etc. I’m always learning.

    Anyways, they are old enough now to learn the old, You are What you Eat and i guess this is better than telling them to count calories- which was the trend as I grew up.

    The other thing I’m enjoying is the food prep together. When we make it from scratch, there is always time to be together, helping, measuring, stirring. It is funny how it is assumed that a meal that comes in a package is accepted as delicious food (or at least a taste they are familiar with as delicious) and real food has to be tested for taste. Shouldn’t it be the other way around? our eating habits are way messed up.

  3. You must check out The Institute for Integrative Nutrition. I think you’d appreciate the philosophy of the program. It changed my life. Subsequently, I am outraged when I see those HFCS-promoting commercials… totaly misleading propaganda. As you said, I love farmers. Responsible ones, I guess. Anyway, IIN educated me and empowered me to take responsibilitiy for my own health.
    Well, okay…. I’m slightly derailed from my formerly healthy track by the collision that is single motherhood. But still. Check it out. 🙂

    • I will check that out–much appreciation for the tip.
      Glad you are enjoying my site… next week I will post 3 of my corn journey! Ha!

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