- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
A groan went through the crowd when Mary Jane Bundy started reading the ingredient list on a package of Oreos.
“Sugar, enriched flour …,” Bundy read as the group of children at P.D. Brown Memorial Library’s Afternoon Kids Club listened, some already hearing too much and shaking their heads.
Then the ingredient that sealed the deal was uttered — “high fructose corn syrup.”
“High fructose corn syrup,” Jillian Daniel, 7, shuddered.
“Take it or leave it,” Bundy asked the group who spent the day learning how to be food detectives, determining how to make good food choices, read nutritional facts and know what to look for on labels and what to avoid.
“Leave it,” the chorus of voices answered back.
Bundy, the assistant wellness manager at MOM’s Organic Market, along with Deby Wells, the wellness manager, and Tyler Tyzinski, a store employee, led the program at the library.
“We are helping kids make good nutritional decisions,” Bundy said, and if the parents learn a thing or two, all the better.
“I really learned a lot,” said Kamil Barley of Waldorf who brought along her sons Colin, 6, and Chase, 2. “Now I know exactly what to look for.”
Barley said she and her children come to the library frequently and like to participate in its offerings.
“There are so many different programs,” she said. “[It] exposes them to different information.”
The Afternoon Kids Club, organized by children’s librarians DauVeen Walker and Sara Margiotta, aims to offer activities that focus on science, technology, engineering and mathematics — STEM, said Cynthia Thornley, the branch manager.
“The emphasis is on STEM,” Thornley said. “We try to make it fun in the summer.”
The “Science of Ice Cream” held July 2 attracted about 115 kids, she said, adding that the club has met in summers past, but “it kind of exploded this year.”
Daniele Wilson, the mother of three girls, said it’s nice for her children to “get unplugged for a while” and away from TV and computer screens.
And as a middle school teacher, Wilson believes that learning shouldn’t slow because the temperature skyrockets.
“It’s really important to have something to prevent the learning slide,” she said.
The Wilson family also is starting to become more invested in healthy eating.
“It’s a new venture for us,” Wilson said. “We’re working on eating healthier foods and making better choices.”
While dad might need some “re-training,” the girls — Dominique Piecara, 9, Juliana Piecara, 7, and Tatiana Wilson, 3, — are well on their way to being healthy eaters.
“If you give them a choice between fruit and chips, they’ll pick fruit,” Wilson said.
Follow the clues
There are clues that food detectives can look for to hunt down groceries that will deliver on its nutritional promises, Bundy said.
Shoppers shouldn’t be fooled by big, bold letters on the front of packages and instead read the nutritional facts on the side of the package.
The first ingredient listed is always the most used in the product. Foods with partially hydrogenated oil and high fructose corn syrup should be avoided.
Other foods that should be left on the grocery store shelves are those with a super long ingredient list and that use whole grain imposters — like enriched wheat flour.
Breads, cereals, granola bars, crackers and pasta should have at least 2 grams of fiber per serving.
But Bundy warned shoppers not to just take the label “organic” as a blank check.
“Just because it’s organic doesn’t mean it doesn’t have too much sugar,” she said, showing an alternative to the beloved Oreos that use more natural ingredients.
Though they may be organic, the sugar crash will happen.
The shorter an ingredient list, the more likely it will be a better choice.
“What’s inside an apple?” Wells asked. “An apple.”