Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Super Mum :: Tanya from Additive Free Pantry

When our son was three he developed a cough that just wouldn't leave him. It was keeping him (and Mama) up half the night. Numerous trips to the doctor led to ventolin inhalers and talk of asthma. My mother's intuition didn't want to accept the diagnosis. Then I read Sue Dengate's Fed Up, a book about food additives and the effects they can have on people's health, development and behaviour. And here I was thinking we were a healthy family; I served up plenty of fruit and veg, steered clear of highly processed foods and limited the treats. I was shocked to find that I was still giving my children a considerable portion of foods that contained additives Sue believes are linked to conditions such as asthma. Fed Up reveals what all those numbers on food labels mean and explains what they do to us. I worked hard (it took a looong time to read the back of packets and cross-check numbers and letters) to eliminate all the offenders from our family's diet. And I have to say I was amazed (not to mention relieved to get some sleep!) when our son's cough disappeared. (I must mention that I don't prescribe to Fed Up's elimination diet or limited-fruit diet, it's fruit and veg till you burst around here.)
It's no surprise then that I am loving mum-of-three Tanya Winfield's work. She runs Additive Free Pantry Party in NSW's Upper Hunter region and visits homes to explain the effects of additives and help you clean out your food cupboard and clean up your family diet. Tanya, you're welcome to clean my pantry out any time...
So what is an additive-free pantry party?
I guess it's like any party plan but a lot more information-based. The host invites friends over for morning or afternoon tea (additive-free home baked goodies are supplied by me) and I talk about additives — what they are, what they do to our bodies, which foods they are in, etc... I also supply a handout with websites, reference books, recipes and where to shop in the local area. I also do one-on-one pantry clean-outs and information sessions.
What alerted you to food additives?
A friend loaned me a book, Additive Alert by Julie Eady. At the time my children were snacking on a plain store-bought biscuit and when I looked up all the ingredients I was shocked to find out what my kids were really ingesting. One of the synthetic antioxidants (320) is so bad it was banned in Japan in the 1950s. I cleaned out my pantry that afternoon and have been additive-free since.
What exactly are additives and why are they in so much food these days?
Additives come in many forms. Colours, flavour enhancers, emulsifiers, bleaching agents, humectants, preservatives, anti-foaming agents and so much more. Some are added for colour, some to change the flavour, or to increase shelf-life. Most food additives are chemicals and offer no health benefits to the consumer at all.
What are the main nasties we should get out of our pantries?
320, a synthetic antioxidant found in biscuits, breads, vegetable oils and margarines.
282, propionates found in bread and some dairy products.
220, sulphites found in processed meats and juices.
621, MSG found in sauces, soups, frozen meals, seasonings and more.
What challenges are involved in maintaining an additive-free lifestyle?
My teenage daughter is not 100% additive-free all the time as she is just that — a teenager. This dose unbalance me at times but we have an agreement on which additives are in the no-go zone and I make sure she knows what food additives can do to her to her body so she can make informed choices on her foods when she's out with friends.
What changes have you noticed in your family members since you went additive-free?
I have noticed my kids are a lot calmer. My two boys sleep soundly every night for up to 11 hours. My youngest was a tantrum thrower and this just doesn't happen anymore.
My husband is a shift worker and he seems to cope on the change overs a lot better. I feel like I have sooo much more energy than I did before. If ever I eat anything with additives I feel tired and lethargic that afternoon or the next day.
Please tell us it's not all mung beans and brown rice. Can you still enjoy treats and be additive-free?
Absolutely, my kids still enjoy chips, lollies and ice-cream every now and then. You just need to check the labels and find out which ones are OK. There is not a lot my kids do not eat. We choose not to eat take-away any more as most is laden with additives. I still cook a lot of the same meals I used to, I just check all my ingredients.
Does it cost more or less to live this way in your opinion?
For a family of five I spend around $220 per week. That's for EVERY meal, EVERY day. I shop at supermarkets, a butcher, baker and a local fresh fruit and vegie stall. I don't buy a lot of prepackaged foods so this is where I save.
What are your plans for Additive Free Pantry Party this year?
I'm happy to help spread awareness of the food additives in our everyday foods. I believe that everyone has the right to be informed on these hidden nasties. I'm looking at getting into local canteens to clean up the foods we offer our kids at school.
Can you give us a yummy additive-free recipe to try?
Sure! Here's two:
:: Of course I just had to try one of Tanya's recipes. The Coconut Slice is quick, easy and so yummy! This plate was polished off very quickly. ::
Quick Coconut Slice
1 cup plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 cup organic desiccated coconut
1 cup raw sugar
125g melted block butter
½ cup milk
2 eggs, beaten
Preheat oven to 180°C and lightly grease a 20x30cm slice pan.
Sift flour and baking powder into a large bowl then stir in coconut and sugar. Add butter, milk and eggs, mixing well. Pour into prepared pan, spreading evenly. Bake for 20-25 mins, until golden and cooked when tested with a skewer.
Cool in pan. Dust with icing sugar. Cut into squares to serve.
:: Check the label on your coconut — a lot contain preservative 202, a sorbic acid which is harmful to asthmatics and can cause behavioral problems in children.

Banana Bread
2 bananas
2 tablespoons golden syrup
¾ cup raw sugar
1 egg
1 cup plain flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
pinch of sea salt
Preheat oven to 180°C and grease and line the base of a loaf pan.
In a large bowl mash bananas with a fork. Add golden syrup, mix. Add sugar and stir in. Add egg, flour and sea salt, lightly mix until combined. Pour mixture into loaf pan, cook in oven for 30–40 mins or until golden on top. Check with skewer, if it comes out clean the bread is cooked. Allow to cool before cutting. Enjoy!

For more information including purchasing books about food additives you can contact Tanya via email on Supermummy[at]live[dot]com[dot]au.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the banana bread recipe!
Great interview - my family is additive free too, and I too believe it is a major factor in why my daughters are less tantrum throwing than other kids :D

Kate said...

That has really opened my eyes.
Thanks for introducing us to Tanya.
What a great idea!

Anonymous said...

just want to say your blog is great and thanks for the recipes from Tanya, i'd love to see more recipes like this on your blog, i'm just starting to get into trying to get rid of all the preservatives in my family meals

Anonymous said...

Australia has some of the most lenient food standards. It's up to us to be aware and reject all the crap they are letting into this country. Alex

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