We’ve heard of the Creature From the Black Lagoon, but what about the contents lurking on the back label? How common foods ingredients may affect our kids.

When it comes to a good scare, there are definitely some foods we should eat with the lights on.

After all, how else are we going to read the labels?

Lots of innocent-looking foods, from bread to veggie burgers, carry ingredients that can haunt our kids with side effects, turning them from Dr. Jekylls to Mr. Hydes. Bad moods, headaches and potential hyperactivity all can result from artificial colors and other food additives. Do you know which is lurking in your pantry? Time to grab a flashlight and find out.

MSG (monosodium glutamate): This flavor enhancer boosts the tastiness of savory foods like soups, snack chips and even veggie burgers. Sounds great, but MSG has been reported to cause headaches, nausea, weakness, chest pains and overeating. MSG could entice us to eat more by stimulating the pancreas to produce insulin. This can cause low blood sugar and an increased appetite.

Disodium inosinate and disodium guanylate (I+G): This food additive has been linked to temper tantrums among children. A study of 3 year olds in the United Kingdom found that kids who consumed juices containing artificial additives, including I+G, were more likely to lose their tempers and have trouble concentrating and sleeping.

Yellow No. 5 (tartrazine): The food dye, used in potato chips, jams, candy and soft drinks, is being tested for the possibility of causing hyperactivity in kids. Other concerns involve its possible contribution to migraines, anxiety and cancer.

Red #40 (Allura red): Red #40 is used to brighten the look of baked goods, candy and soft drinks. This makes it among the most widely consumed synthetic dyes. It is linked to hyperactivity and chromosomal damage.

Aspartame: This artificial sweetener, along with other preservatives such as sulfites and benzoates, could worsen breathing problems among asthmatics.

GMOs: While essential for helping plants resist certain pests, some GMOs may have have unintended side effects. Nearly two-dozen studies indicate this much. A review of 19 animal studies pointed to potential harmful effects to the heart, kidneys, liver and other organs. Some opponents claim GMOs can cause new allergies.

Sugars in disguise: Kids should have no more than five to seven teaspoons of sugar per day, depending on age. Yet they eat a startling 32 teaspoons. The reason may be that sugars often  come in unrecognized forms. Fruit juice concentrates, flomalt and many words ending in “ose” (dextrose, fructose, glucose, lactose, maltose, sucrose) are added sugars.

If this makes you want to protect your family’s nutrition, then be ready to read more. The best way to spot these ingredients is to review food labels and familiarize yourself with them. Also, first shop the perimeter of the store where veggies, fruits and other fresh foods are stored.

If you do choose fresh foods for dinner, feel free to turn the lights down low. Scary moments are for the screen, not the dinner table.

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