6 Preservatives That Parents Should Avoid Giving to Their Kids

January 10, 2014     Jenna Cyprus     Mixed Bag


As a parent, you do everything possible to protect your child — including providing her or him with healthy snacks and meals. But how healthy are these choices, really?

Packaging can be misleading at best, and the latest information passed around via word of mouth can end up being as frustratingly inaccurate as a game of telephone. In the world of preservatives, some choices are better than others. For many people, being unclear about the worst additives can make or “break” a child’s healthy status.

Food additives may be impossible to avoid, but they’re certainly not all created equally. From sodium nitrate to propyl gallate, the following preservatives should be avoided at all costs: They’re just not worth it.

While your children may adore the foods that tout these preservatives, it’s often impossible to see what the long-term impact will be until it’s too late. In the new year, make the switch to avoiding certain preservatives and help ensure a longer, healthier life for your family and your child.

1. Sodium nitrate

Considered the worst of the worst by many a nutritionist, sodium nitrate’s sole job is to keep food color looking vibrant. It’s found in cured meats like bacon, corned beef, hot dogs, smoked fish, and lunch meat, and it doesn’t actually do anything to preserve the real color of the food.

However, it does turn into a “reactive compound” which has been shown many times in tests to cause cancer. The nutrition factor of cured meats is iffy enough, so there’s no need to add an extra grenade into that mix.

2. Monosodium Glutamate (MSG)

You’ve probably noticed Chinese restaurants will proudly tout “No MSG” on their windows, but do you know why that’s a good thing? At core an amino acid, it’s often found in Asian salad dressings, frozen meals, soups, and chips and is known to cause headaches and nausea.

Will MSG kill you? Probably not, but the last thing any parent needs or wants is a cranky child because of a pounding headache or feeling nauseated. Plus, it’s a relatively easy one to avoid.

3. Aspartame

Previously the king of artificial sweeteners, it’s still found in a variety of sugar-free treats, including diet soda. Aspartame has been linked to cancer in a number of studies, and there are plenty of safer options on the market — including real sugar in moderation.

The stevia leaf (and products made from it such as Truvia), is a more natural option. Read labels carefully, and if diet soda is in your regimen of treats, you should recognize that there are plenty of Stevia-sweetened options.

4. Certain food colorings

Specifically Blue 1 and 2, Red 3, Green 3, and Yellow 6 are potentially dangerous for the whole family. However, when it comes to pulling rank, the specified red, green, and yellow are the most troublesome.

Meant to preserve the color in items like baked goods, candy, fruit cocktails, and drinks, they’ve also been shown to cause bladder cancer in humans and thyroid tumors in rats. It’s best to avoid them and opt for a treat that’s all-natural, if perhaps not quite as festively colored.

5. Olestra

Maybe you haven’t noticed this (yet), but certain potato chips (the ones most likely to laud their “low-fat status”) may also come with a warning about excessive diarrhea, the famed anal leakage, or another not so tasteful note.

That’s because olestra, a synthetic fat, does a great job at blocking fat from being absorbed … but at a price. It can lead to a severely upset stomach, and it’s even more dangerous in kids whose systems are still developing. As for adults, it’s up to you if you want to risk it, but olestra victims say it’s not worth it.

6. Potassium bromate

While this one’s rare in the preservative world, it’s still legal. It’s used to make breads fluffier and more appealing. In California, there’s a cancer warning label on every item that uses this preservative, which means you should read the labels carefully no matter where you live.

Experts say that even a small amount of potassium bromate can put a person at risk.

It’s easy to shop for the cheapest, fall for marketing tactics, or stick with what “you’ve always bought.” But a little information and label scanning can do wonders; consider tacking this onto your New Year’s resolution list this year.


15 responses to “6 Preservatives That Parents Should Avoid Giving to Their Kids

  1. Jimmy Arcade

    I completely agree! My wife and I warn our friends and family about these ingredients, as well. However, I would also suggest that adults avoid these things, as well. One of the worst contributors for aspartame is diet foods and artificial sweeteners. Diet coke is likely the most common form of aspartame consumption. My wife and I also avoid the other stuff; especially and including MSG and red dyes.

  2. Deb E

    I’m encouraged the manufacturers are at least trying (most I think) and realize parents care about this. You do your best and hope they start to understand it’s important, since you can’t be around them every time they make a food choice.

  3. Robin Wilson

    Wow ~ this list is scary! These are preservatives that I want to avoid for myself. I had absolutely no idea about the last one. I cannot believe that it is still legal ~ WTH?

  4. Tina

    I agree too. My daughter has reactions to certain foods. She can’t eat microwave popcorn. she turns red and has a hard time breathing. she can eat air blown popcorn so it is something they add to the microwave kind. so we have to pay attention to foods we eat.

  5. ginette4

    Wow, what a list, a real eye opener, thank you and I shall pass this on to family and friends, thanks for sharing

  6. Jean

    Thank you for the list. I avoid almost all of these. This year one of my nutrition goals is to be much more diligent about artificial colors – they creep into almost every processed food. I don’t give my kids a whole lot of processed food in the first place, but they do love cheese crackers and I know those have artificial colors.

  7. Jodi D.

    we are starting to cut out the things that are in food in my childrens diet.. I never thought those things were affecting my kids until research came out and then we got a diagnosis of ADHD for one of my children and I know it plays a role.

  8. latanya

    Thanks for sharing this list. I know my sister in law stopped eating at Chinese restaurants because she would get headaches afterwards. Now we know it is from the msg. I now study ingredients statements and I am more aware of what we eat as a family.

  9. Tempestt

    Thank you for posting this. I will definitely pass this along to my family. This is just what I needed to read to help me achieve my goal of eating better.

  10. MSG is a really sneaky one and is probably in more products than I think. I had purchased a can of enchilada sauce the other day and noticed it has MSG. I wonder if any brands are made without MSG. I ended up using it anyway but I’m on a mission to find one now without MSG.

  11. Eileen Richter

    I have had to read labels more as I have somewhat severe chemical sensitivities. MSG, Aspartame and the nitrates are high on my list to avoid. I had never heard of the last two on your list, at least being more than a nuisance as far as the Olestra goes. But the potassium Brolate? Wow, a cancer warning and they STILL are allowed it. I mean, really…cigarettes and the like that are known to cause cancer is something different. It is not thing we NEED to survive. Food is another story. And people are NOT so shop savvy to look at these things. I also notice sneaky ways of them getting Aspartame into things still. And other sweeteners…they just change the name somewhat. God, it is sad companies are putting money, greed, profit before the health of our nation and health of our kids.

    My problem, and it is BIG, is that I have a snack happy and sugar addicted husband. He brings SO much crap into our house. Just discussing this with our 14 year old daughter who also grazes the kitchen and pantry and doesnt think twice..because she is FOURTEEN! She has no idea and if she did, a child thinks they are invincible and do not think anything bad will EVER come out of a diet soda or a brownie or a bacon burger or coldcut sandwich. But we know YEARS of eating like this will. And when parents like us think it will never happen to us, or want to think about food satisfaction or even price over our health and that our our kids…that is a problem.

    Even I can fall…even after years of being sick and knowing full well what I should not have. I fell to a doughnut the other day. And told my husband NOT to bring them in the house please. He thought it was FUNNY that it was MY fault for not being able to have the will to avoid it. But secretly I think some people sabbatage others because they have no control and they want everyone else to be on that same page. Not fair for kids. They can’t buy their own groceries or make informed decisions, or even think about WILL power to have to stay away from certain foods. They should not have to even think about it. Healthy safe foods and drinks should be our main offer with only occasional treats …and we can make our own versions. It’s just easier and cheaper to eat packaged and loaded with chemicals that promote longer shelf lifes. Sad. Truly Sad

    Ok, off my soap box. Sorry

  12. Nataly Carbonell

    Thanks for sharing this with us! I try to avoid processed preservatives as much as I can, but sometimes it is difficult to identify them. I’ve noticed that food with artificial red color gives my daughter and me nausea, so we are trying to avoid them as much as possible

  13. Betty B.

    Great Post! I’ve known about most of them. I stopped buying hot dogs its just awful that these are considered legal to put into our food. I never heard about Olestra before, Im not one to buy low fat or sugar free because i know most of the time it has harmful chemicals in it.

  14. Elena

    Thanks for sharing this. I always read the labels before buying anything. It’s so important to watch what you eat

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