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Ingredient Checking [publisher's letter]

Publisher Tracy Patterson with her dog sitting in the desert resting up from a hike

Tracy Patterson

The article in this month’s Healthy Kids section, made me think back to when I started ingredient checking. I have examined every box, bottle and package I’ve picked up at the store since I can remember, and all I can say is, wow, have things changed over the years.
I recall as a teenager in the 1970s, looking at boxes of cereal, like Kellogg’s Corn Flakes and Rice Krispies, and they didn’t contain any sugar; we actually added it if we so desired. Now, those two cereals, and almost every other one, come with refined sugar (or high-fructose corn syrup). On top of that, when I used to eat corn flakes I wasn’t worried that the corn was genetically modified—I didn’t even know what that was!
I have never used a lot of condiments, but ketchup and chili sauce are two that I enjoy from time to time. They used to be pretty basic, with no bad ingredients to speak of. Not so anymore! I don’t know when they started sneaking in “our friend” high-fructose corn syrup, but it came as a shock to me one day when I tasted the chili sauce and thought, “Hmmm, that tastes sickly sweet,” and when I looked at the ingredients, there it was… The good news is that some of the health food stores carry ketchup and chili brands that are quite tasty, so I don’t have to abandon my favorites entirely.
And my favorite crazy ingredient example of all time: table salt. Before I started using Himalayan sea salt, I still used a little regular table salt. One day, I was casually looking at the ingredients on the box; I mean, what could possibly be in table salt besides salt? I had to take a closer look to make sure my mind wasn’t playing tricks on me, but there it was, sugar listed as an ingredient in my table salt!
What I’ve learned is that we have to be vigilant about checking ingredients, as they seem to change on a regular basis. It’s not sufficient to check once and deem a product okay; it needs to be examined periodically to make sure a not-so-nice ingredient hasn’t been snuck into the mix. And it only makes sense to instill this practice in our children—a great habit to develop at an early age during their growth, and one they will thank us for later.