Teach Kids to Read “High Fructose Corn Syrup” in Ingredient Lists

My daughter, Evelyn, is going to be with her dad all weekend for Easter.

I don’t care much for holidays but I do care for the absolute cuteness of kids running around in the grass searching for hidden eggs, so I’m sad. Oh well. Such is life.

So, while she’s out with her somewhat less health conscious side of the family, we are working to empower her with the tools she needs to make it through the weekend feeling great.

Since figuring out that she has fructose malabsorption she is really careful about what she eats and so the thought of being stuffed with fructose all weekend made her cry. She’s really excited to hunt for eggs in her grandma’s backyard, but she has mixed feelings about eating candy.

“Mommy,” she sniffled, “I don’t want to be bloated again. Can’t you tell them where to buy me better candy?”

“I will,” I said, “But I can do even better than that. I will teach you to read the ingredients, yourself.”


We got bottle of Mellow Yellow from the grocery store and brought it home.

Learning to read “high fructose corn syrup”

Once home, Evelyn ran over to her art table to get to work. Her goal: to recognize that four word sequence.

She’s only just six so she’s not old enough to read anything beyond “See Spot run. Spot likes cats. Jump Spot!” Early reading stuff. So High Fructose Corn Syrup is a tall order but, with practice, she got it. And, as you can see from the picture, she also decided that she had better learn to write corn syrup too since that’s in a lot of things all by itself.

Now she can grab a piece of candy at her grandma’s house and scan over the ingredients until she finds the familiar new “sight words,” HIGH FRUCTOSE CORN SYRUP.

(If you still need convincing that HFCSs are harmful, check out this post about fructose.)

How to Spot Food Coloring

HFCSs aren’t the only thing wrong with your average American piece of candy. Food coloring (and artificial flavors) is another one. Spotting food coloring – which by the way is indigestible and made from petroleum, the exact ingredients of which are concealed from the public (reference: 2:09 in the video below) – is pretty simple because kids only need look for numbers at the end of the list of ingredients. They don’t need to know how to spell yellow, blue, or red. The numbers indicate their presence.


Helping our kids make better choices

Now, I’m not trying to say that eating a ton of somewhat cleaner candy is a good idea. But let’s face it, many of our kids will anyway. If we get creative, we can come up with alternatives to slowly killing off our children one holiday at a time.

My usual holiday trick for Easter is to replace the horrible candy for less horrible candy. This works really well for the small kids, but things get interesting once they start thinking for themselves.

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