Youth Blog Series: Food Additives

Be the Change’s Youth Blog Series highlights blogs written by university student interns at Be the Change Earth Alliance. In the blogs, the interns reflect on their experience completing “Action Packs,” which are learning resources that guide students in research, critical thinking and tangible action related to a global sustainability topic.

Action Pack Summary

This Action Pack describes what food additives are, why they’re used, their detrimental effects on our health, and how to avoid and eliminate them from our diet. As well, this Action Pack includes a variety of activities that encourage reflection on the processed packaged foods we consume and aim to instigate a shift in behaviours for the betterment of our health. 

Food additives and preservatives are substances that are incorporated into foods as a means to either extend longevity, increase aesthetic, aid storage/packaging, enhance flavour, and/or add nutritive qualities. These substances often have detrimental effects on our health and increase the risk of a myriad of health complications. However, there are numerous, easy ways to eliminate or reduce your consumption of these harmful substances, such as: reading labels and being mindful of the ingredients (if you can’t say/spell it, then don’t eat it!), washing your produce, freezing food to preserve it, or even dabbling in traditional preservation methods (ie. smoking or fermentation). 

This Action Pack includes a survey of actions that can be taken to avoid food additives, and raise awareness within the community. For example, you can pledge to find natural replacements for the processed foods that you eat, as well as read the labels on the foods that you eat in order to avoid preservatives. 

Reflecting on what actions would be required in order to reduce the consumption of processed foods is thought-provoking because, besides the obvious constituents of time and research, it is the action of passion that will establish permanent change. Igniting a passion that produces local change, which then has beneficial implications for the broader, global community. 

My reflection

After doing this action plan, I became more aware of the foods I ate. I read all the labels on the foods I bought and try to avoid foods which have excess preservatives. I began cooking more, this was a challenge because it was hard to find time to prepare and buy ingredients. With such a large selection of ready made food available at the stores, it is hard to justify putting so much time and effort to home cooked meals. I was challenged to create a replacement snack made with natural ingredients rather than buying the same thing  from the store, for example, a homemade lemon bar rather than a premade lemon bar with preservatives. I even tried to make homemade Oreos! Although it took a long time, I enjoyed the cooking process and I ended up with a much healthier alternative. Throughout my actions, I learned a lot of new recipes. It was great to realize that I don't need to buy everything, and most foods can be made using ingredients found at the grocery store.