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What’s really in your food?

NEED TO KNOW
  • Mom, nutritionist offers fast, healthy food options

Editor's note: Tracy Neely works in the field of Holistic Nutrition and Beauty and specializes in women’s health. She incorporates a holistic approach to help women heal their body, recapture their vitality, and love what they see in the mirror. Whether it's cleansing toxins from your body, healing your digestion or clearing up your skin, Tracy supports you on your journey to feel and look "beautifully nourished from the inside out."

Tracy lives in Alpharetta, GA with her husband and son and in her spare time, enjoys spending time playing at the park and going to farmers markets.  She is studying to become a Naturopathic Doctor.

So you’re a busy mom or dad just home from work and you’re wondering what to feed your family. As a busy mom who balances running a business with home life, I understand what it’s like to want to provide children with meals that don’t take a long time in the kitchen.

Many packaged foods, like chicken fingers and French fries, have become the go-to foods for many parents. But have you ever looked at the label and wondered what those ingredients are that you can’t pronounce? You’re not alone. 

Monosodium Glutamate (MSG) is used as a flavor enhancer in many foods, including chicken fingers. It was invented in 1908.  In 1959, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration labeled MSG as “generally recognized as safe” (GRAS), and it has remained that way since then.

Food manufacturers are very crafty in how they label foods, so you may not see the word MSG. When you see any of the following words, you've probably eaten food containing MSG: yeast extract, textured vegetal protein, autolyzed plant protein, sodium caseinate, calcium caseinate, natural flavoring, seasonings or gelatin.

What about those fries? The soybean or canola oil found in French fries can be made from genetically-modified soybeans or canola. 

As much as 70 percent to 80 percent of all packaged foods contain GMOs (genetically modified organisms) from ingredients such as corn, soybean, canola and cottonseed oil. Monsanto, the world’s largest seed company, is also the lead producer of the herbicide “Roundup."

Since genetically modified foods are substantially equivalent to unmodified, "natural" foods, they are not subject to regulation by the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA). According to the Institute For Responsible Technology, a GMO is the result of a laboratory process where genes from the DNA of one species are extracted and artificially forced into the genes of an unrelated plant or animal. The foreign genes may come from bacteria, viruses, insects, animals or even humans. Because this involves the transfer of genes, GMOs are also known as "transgenic" organisms.

Grilled chicken cut into strips and  is a great alternative to breaded chicken fingers. They are super delicious and simple to make. The key to cooking chicken fast is pounding the chicken breast until it is thin. Then they will cook in less than 10 minutes. You can use a mallet, a heavy object such as a rolling pin, or a heavy glass. This method will save you time and turn your children into grilled chicken fans. One they're pounded flat, here's how you can cook them: 

 

Grilled Chicken Recipe

Ingredients

•   4 boneless chicken breast

•   1/4 c. grapeseed oil (coat chicken breast)

•   1 tbsp. grapeseed oil (suited for high temperature cooking)

•   1 tsp. Italian dry herb blend (choose any dry herbs you have on hand. I chose Italian herbs and a little Cayenne Pepper)

•   1/8 tsp. sea salt

•   Large sauté pan, grill pan or skillet

Method

1. Clean and dry chicken thoroughly and wrap it in a dish towel. Place another dish towel on the counter and place a cutting board on top. Pound each chicken breast until 1/2 inch thick. Place chicken breast in a large platter and coat with 1/4 cup grapeseed oil. Blend the sea salt with the dry herbs and coat each chicken breast with the herb mixture.

2. Turn your stove on medium high heat. Pour one tablespoon of grapeseed oil into pan and when you start to see smoke, place chicken breast in pan one at a time, cover pan and cook on each side until brown, roughly 5 minutes. Turn off the heat, take it off the burner and let sit for 5 minutes.

3. Cut each chicken breast into strips and serve with your favorite steamed vegetable.

Sweet potato fries are a great alternative to packaged French fries. These take longer to make, but are definitely worth the wait!

 

Baked Sweet Potato Fries Recipe

Ingredients

•   3 large sweet potatoes

•   2 tbsp. coconut oil

•   Pinch of sea salt

•   Fresh rosemary (optional)

Method

1. Preheat oven to 450°F degrees.

2. Rinse off the sweet potatoes, peel them and cut off the ends.

3. Cut sweet potatoes in half and then in large chunks.

4. Place the sweet potatoes in a large bowl and add coconut oil. Combine so every sweet potato is coated with the coconut oil.

5. Spread the sweet potatoes in a single layer on a baking sheet.

6. Bake for 20 minutes and take baking sheet out of the oven and turn over each sweet potato and bake for an additional 10 minutes.

7. Take the baking sheet out of the oven and allow to cool for 5 minutes before serving.

8. Sprinkle rosemary sprigs on top of the meal.

 

So whether you are confused as to the foods to feed your children or you are a parent to a "picky" eater, experimenting and adding nutritious new foods to your children’s diet will have long term positive health benefits. If you knew how your food was grown or raised, would it make a difference in what you ate? Tweet @KyraHLN with the #RaisingAmerica hashtag or leave your thoughts on Facebook.com.

And be sure to watch Raising America every week day at 12 p.m. ET on HLN

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