Lesson 5: Additives – What To Ditch!

Here we are. These days, processed food has become so common, that it’s seen as more normal to eat a packet of grain waves, potato stix or baby mum mums than it is to eat a piece of fruit or some carrot sticks with hummus.

If you get one clearer thinking message from today's materials, it's to think this:


Products are where it gets complicated and sure - it gets easier over time to decipher ingredients, but if we use the opportunity to simplify our foods by making produce the foundation, there's far less research that needs doing in that department, don't you think?

Here's what we'll cover in this topic:

Interview with Tanya Winfield

Listen to Brenda's interview with Tanya Winfield, ex-owner of Additive Free Pantry.



And because Tanya doesn't run the Additive Free Pantry anymore she has gifted you all FREE, 3 fabulous resources:

Her 4th edition Additive free Aussie shopping guide covering 1000 products - this is perfect for beginners who feel a bit overwhelmed and aren't ready to consider 'organic' / changing where you shop yet, and just want to start with safe supermarket options . 

Additive free breakfast PDF

Additive free lunchbox PDF

We love you Tanya! <3


Deciphering food labels + why it's a must-have skill

Alexx remembers being out and about with her little guy as a toddler, and they’d sit on a bench and eat a carrot mid morning - no eating on the run or in the stroller, always stopping to eat - a THRIVE principle. People would always fawn over this ‘amazing boy eating a carrot’. Why so amazing? Why is no one looking at the child with the packet of twisties and saying to the mother "What is this alien thing your child is eating?". When real food becomes the weird food, then Houston we have a problem.

If you have a child with asthma, eczema, psoriasis, hay fever, hives, face reddening, violence, ADHD or any matter of other issues and you’ve NOT yet looked at removing the additives, well this topic could potentially be life changing.

From today, we want you to ramp up your curiosity and critical thinking and question your options.


There is many a catch phrase on food packaging. One of the most common is ‘no artificial ingredients’ or ‘additive free’.

Do not be fooled. This does not mean you can trust the product and skip reading the ingredients. Exhibit A is a product that had a big “No artificial ingredients or preservatives” on the front.


It doesn’t matter what the brand was - we care more about you learning transferrable detective skills to apply to anything you come across, rather than rote learning brands that are safe / not safe (although of course this is useful and you will get to know over time, making the most of our pantry list from topic 1). It’s this sort of product that is still catching well meaning people thinking they’re making a better choice. The best choice you can make is to make a batch of biscuits at home per week and not buy them. Think about it: to make biscuits that have a year to 3 year's shelf life and are transported around the globe? It's impossible to make it with a whole food approach.

Now back to the weird version…

The brand spiel also told a romantic story of “70 years of baking tradition” – half of these ingredients didn’t exist 70 years ago. Do you see the profound lack of logic here? Stop buying the BS. The romance is in your kitchen or at your farmer’s market stall. The romance isn’t in commercial baking - even though the marketing will try to make you think it is.  From the label above we can tell you:

  • This is 37% sugar.
  • It almost certainly contains genetically modified soy bean ingredients (always a giveaway when they don’t state “GM FREE” on their label and the product is made from local and imported ingredients. To learn more about why GMO foods are a huge question mark that we don't want to be the experiment of, pop through to Alexx's podcast Low Tox Life, for interview with Professor Michael Antoniou).
  • It contains refined wheat and brown sugar (which is just white sugar with a little molasses added back in. Go figure!).
  • It contains ‘vegetable fat’ twice. Once mentioning palm oil and the second time, which whether they’re covering up for using palm oil or inflammatory sunflower / canola oils high in omega 6, either way we’re destroying forests or damaging our health.
  • It contains ‘natural flavour’ which can mean MSG, beaver bottoms (we kid you not) or beetles treated in ammonia. Talk about abusing the term ‘natural’, right?
  • 120 – ‘natural’ but cochineal can cause anaphylaxis, asthma or dermatitis in some people, according the Chemical Maze (app) So while the ingredient can be 'natural', what is DONE to it, such as being given an ammonia bath, is very UNnatural and can still cause problems.

Thank goodness the sugar is raw though, right? Ha!


The marketing behind food that is designed to confuse us

So if you’ve realised you’ve been falling for this sort of stuff up until now, please do not panic. We both used to buy very strange items such as a little 4 pack of chocolate snack-pack desserts, simply because it said ‘fat free’, or microwaved popcorn eaten by the 3min50secs bag – everyone has a past so leave the guilt at the door. Guilt is going to get you precisely nowhere.

The key is to ditch the guilt and get excited for what you’re going to change tomorrow! Sing it with us sister!

bye bye

These packets are what we want to limit, and we’re smarter than a few catch phrases, aren’t we? Feel free to share any revelations or experiences you’ve had with this and please remember – there is always someone on day one of their real food journey. Welcome them. Don’t make them feel silly for not knowing, eating this food, or continuing to want to eat this food.

Especially if you are living in the city we are bombarded with labels of all kinds, all day – especially food labels. A good marketer will know what the points of consumer susceptibility are, and play to those.

People find comfort amidst confusion, in words and labels that they equate with safety. Kosher, Gluten Free, Organic, Fat free / Sugar Free – our personal favourites, which we’d like to point out can be very often directly translated to ‘food additive body bomb’! Sadly, what we’re ‘rewarded’ with is often some of the most processed packet food going!


Whenever you are buying food in a package - organic or not - read the ingredients – this is where you find out whether it’s trolley worthy, not the labels on the packaging! Trouble is, if you shop only online, you don’t get the ingredient list often, so you’re best off at least occasionally shopping in person to keep tabs on whether something is worthy of your munching!

Real food is real food. No numbers. No highly processed, denatured ingredients we can most of the time not pronounce. Our bodies don’t recognise that stuff and it’s showing in all of our health issues. We are so much more powerful and able than we think, to put an end to fake food production and processes – we all just stop buying it.

“But what if I don’t have time to cook ‘real food’ and bake all our snacks?” There are lesser evil brands in the world of packet foods – find them and reward them with your support, because they’re doing the right thing by us! How will you know who they are? They shall be the ones with an ingredient list your grandma would understand 🙂

A couple of ideas to get started on making better food choices

  • Swap your microwave popcorn sachets (containing highly toxic lung irritant and teflon coated bagging system. Get Cob’s instead. Nothing but corn and a tiny bit of sunflower oil OR get regular organic kernels. They're so inexpensive and you get bowls and bowls out of a single bag!  Here's a super simple Taco Popcorn, 10 minute chocolate caramel popcorn or turmeric popcorn, you can take to the movies next time! 
  • Swap something like Coles home brand or Kraft Peanut Butter for Mayver’s Peanut butter.
  • Swap flavoured Sakatas for brown rice and seaweed Eatrite crackers or plain Sakata white ones even. 
  • Swap flavoured chips for plain ones. 
  • Swap Grainwaves, BBQ Shapes, Pringles and Cheesy corn chips for plain chips or Macro corn chips and an exciting dip 

In a perfect world, we only ever shop at farmers markets or grow our own food, right? If you need to buy food in packets for your pantry stock up though – don’t we all? – a simple discipline will keep your shopping basket in check: Read the Ingredient List. There’s some weird stuff going into packet food, that we can choose to avoid. If enough of us choose to avoid processed packet food, it will force companies to either go away or make better stuff with real ingredients – how amazingly powerful are we as a collective!? People won’t make what people don’t buy, and our 1000's of micro actions are all gearing to turn into one big ginormous action.

Many health professionals and weight loss companies and products have focused on the nutritional panel for years. This paints far from the whole picture. We don’t know about you, but we’d prefer to eat a little of something high in fat if it’s healthy fat, than we would a low fat product with 10 additives we don't recognise. Look at the ingredient list, and if you don’t know what something is, your body won’t either. It’s that simple. This goes equally for numbers as for words. Yes, you may be able to read ‘partially hydrogenated vegetable oil’ or ‘hydrolysed wheat protein’ but do you really know what they mean? They’re actually code for trans fat & msg. Don’t be disheartened. You will learn this stuff over time. It’s taken us many years of geek-out research and reading to wrap our head around it all. Give yourself a break and choose something little to focus on each week instead of feeling like everything you’ve done in the past is wrong and you’re doomed – you’re not! Today’s a new day.

And here's a brilliant resource you can access straight away to help you navigate the world of additives and find the right products for you and your family: the Additive Free Marketplace Directory was launched by Frankie Bell, a Food Coach and Consultant, founder of Additive Free Kids. She's also mum to 5 gorgeous boys who have been the driving force behind her additive free journey. She's launched this directory to help you find additive free products from all over Australia. Her aim is to reduce the overwhelm when it comes to selecting additive free brands, knowing that she's done the hard work for you, reviewing and endorsing these brands as an independent and trusted party, on your behalf. How good is that?


How to start noticing the smell of ‘spin’ on food packaging

It’s time to really start to notice the smell of ‘spin’, like these ‘selling points’ commonly seen on packets:

  • "Baked not fried" – if we had a dollar…
  • "Sugar Free" – doesn’t mean they’re not using horrible chemical sweeteners, added fructose or corn syrup
  • "Fat Free" – another code for ‘full of artificial crap your body doesn’t understand ’
  • "No Saturated Fat" – good quality saturated fats like coconut, pasture / grass fed meat & bacon, and organic free range eggs are really good for us as part of a nutritious diet, and polyunsaturated high heat processed seed oils are really bad for us – so, while the latter aren’t “saturated”, we'd pick a good quality saturated fat over a highly processed unsaturated any day!
  • "Cholesterol Free" – erm, margarine is cholesterol free but it is far, far away from being a real food our bodies recognise.
  • "Organic" – sometimes, organic packet products can have a bunch of unhealthy stuff in them too – definitely more dependable but just because the corn syrup is organic, don’t make it healthy!
  • "Made with real fruit" – hilarious! love that - a real ‘clutching at straws’ claim. see below!
  • "Natural flavourings" – MSG can be classified as natural - annoying!
  • "No artificial flavours or colours" – there's a product today that had that on the front, and then about 8 additives and hidden MSG ingredients (yeast extract and hydrolised wheat protein) No thanks!

So what’s a recent example you’ve found, we hear you say?

We bring you a popular snack item in the health aisle of all places. They're little yoghurt and fruit snack balls.

So the health benefits stated on the front of this product are:

  1. Source of Fibre
  2. Made with real fruit
  3. All natural colour & flavour
  4. Added calcium

The nutritional panel looked pretty good too. You’re the busy lunch box buying Mum, thinking “Fab… Sounds perfect” Right? Sadly, oh so wrong! And here’s the whopper ingredient list…

Fruit (32%) made up of concentrated apple purée, dried apples (containing 220) reconstituted berry juices, wheat starch, maltodextrin from wheat, yoghurt confectionery(7%) made up of sugar, vegetable fat, hydrogenated palm kernel oil, milk solids, yoghurt powder, emulsifier (soy lecithin), sugar, isomalt, whey protein, citric acid, coconut (containing 220)seaweed extract, humectant (422), Acidity regulators (330, 296), vegetable oil, natural flavour, natural colour (120), vegetable extracts, glazing agents (553b, 904)

As busy busy people we often judge or buy based on the quick marketing spiels on the front label, not the details on the back. The back is too hard to understand & navigate, so we just quickly read the “source of fibre” and “natural flavour” and think: Great, in the basket it goes! Here’s what the ingredient list tells us though…

  1. Preservative 220: Derived from coal tar (yummy!); All sulphur drugs are toxic and restricted in use and dangerous for people with bronchial problems, asthma and heart. Alexx remembers dried apricots gave her asthma when she was growing up, and Brenda ends up in a coughing fit around an open bag of 'orange' apricots – well, there’s the answer to that mystery! A lot of desiccated coconut brands have 220 in them also, as does a lot of wine… bummer!
  2. Hydrogenated Palm Kernel Oil: The process of hydrogenation of oils makes them less likely to go rancid AND creates TRANS FATS. Run a mile from the word hydrogenate.
  3. Humectant 422: Code for Glycerol and formed as a by-product in soap. Don’t know about you, but we prefer to use soap in the shower, not our food.
  4. Acidity Regulator 296: Commercial malic acid: Infants and young children should avoid it, as warned in the journal of orthomolecular. Found in potato snacks, confectionery, some ready made pasta sauces, frozen vegetables, tinned tomatoes most commonly. Yikes!
  5. A highly processed starch… wheat in this case. Possibly GM, given the fact that when something is highly processed and bears no physical difference to non GM, it doesn’t need to be labelled thus.
  6. 120. Cochineal colouring: Derived from insects and treated with ammonia, this colouring can bring on anaphylaxis, hives, asthma – prohibited in infant foods.

So, there are just 6 of the ingredients spelt out. The only way we can put an end to all these additives is by simply not choosing these products. There are definitely better options. Be ruthless with your ingredient list and download a copy of the full version of Chemical Maze for your phone! These tools are just so useful when you’re first starting out. Once you’ve been through the lot, you’ll quickly realise it’s easier to just head to the farmer’s market. See you there!

Lastly, look for that added sugar. It’s everywhere. You really don’t want to be putting in your ‘every day regulars’ basket anything over 6-7g per 100g of sugar. The odd bikkie or slice of cake is fine to enjoy, but in the daily mix, best cut those added sugars to a minimum, which will be easy if you approach things from a ‘real food’ perspective.


What are the Most Common Numbers in food that you should avoid?

These numbers affect how we behave. They can give us asthma, learning difficulties and headaches. They are very common in kids foods and very damaging to many kids.

1’s are colours and are often found in soft drinks, lollies, cordial, pickles, jelly, custards, biscuits, canned cherries, canned sauces, chocolate cake mixes.

2’s / sulphites are preservatives often found in soft drinks, cordial, dried fruit, potato products, lollies, dressings, grated cheese and highly processed wraps and breads.

9’s – Mostly artificial sweeteners, dried fruit, lollies, flour products. Can lead to depression, dizziness, headaches and more.

6’s – Flavour enhancers also labeled as yeast extract, hydrolysed vegetable / wheat protein, hydrolised starch, natural flavour including MSG, soup, salad dressing, chips, cookies, seasoning. Can lead to depression, headaches, obesity, fatigue.

160b /Annatto – This one tricks lots of people because it's supposedly 'natural'. Annatto orange-yellow colour is a vegetable dye made from the seed coat of the tropical Annatto tree (Bixa orellana). In Australia it is commonly used in cereals, snack foods, dairy foods including yoghurts, icecreams and cheeses, snack foods and a wide range of other foods. It can also be called bixin and norbixin. It is the only natural colour that has so far been found to cause as many adverse intolerance reactions as artificial colours and to affect more consumers that artificial colours. It has also been associated with rare allergic reactions. Adverse reactions to annatto can include skin, gastrointestinal, airways and central nervous system reactions. It's definitely one to watch out for and ditch as the reactions can be even worse than artificial colours in some cases (source: Food Intolerance network) - Beta Carotene 160a is a much safer alternative.

Vanillin – Another fake nasty that sounds natural, vanillin is synthetic vanilla or vanilla from a 'natural' source that will shock you - especially our vegetarian and vegan families. Specifically, it can come from the beaver’s castor sacs, located between the pelvis and base of the tail. Because of its close proximity to the anal glands, castoreum is often a combination of castor gland secretions, anal gland secretions and urine. Bye bye vanillin - Check chocolate, sweets of any kind and ice cream for the most common offenders.

And then there's propylene glycol (car coolant often used in desiccated non organic coconut, commercial ice creams) and sodium benzoate (a nasty petroleum derived preservative that's rather new on the scene in food) that must be watched out for too.

Download The Chemical Maze app, $9 for full version and type in any numbers you’re unsure of.

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Don't be disheartened!

Don’t be disheartened by all the numbers. When starting to discuss additives and potential harm from them with your kids, decide the best way to tell your kids, make sure it's without judgement or pressure, just present the facts. Perhaps watch the documentaries we’ve recommended (Topic 2) with them. Get them to think about how they want to feel and guide them on the way foods can help them feel that way - real food. Nourishing food. Whole food.

So, we’ll leave you with a little thought here: Sit down with a cuppa and have a think about your values. Generally when we tune into our values, we come up with family, love, peace and other things really important to us. We’ve never heard someone say “making money at the expense of health” or “lies” or “tricking people” or getting unhealthy”. And so our question is this:

When you align your values to foods borne from the same values, what sorts of foods do you think of?

It’s produce. Seasonal fruit and veg. Quality, ethically raised produce. Artisan made, home made, fresh baked goods from the oven. Organic. Foods that in their growing and making, were genuinely cared for by people and come from genuinely beautiful places.

That’s the food that makes sense. That’s the food that helps us to THRIVE.

Alexx and Brenda x


© Thrive 2020

Disclaimer: This eCourse contains the educated opinions of the authors and does not substitute for medical advice from your health care professional. It is your responsibility to consult your medical provider before making any changes to your diet. The author, therefore, assumes no responsibility for the decisions you take based upon the information contained in this eCourse.

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