I think most parents know that some of the things we buy are actually pretty unhealthy foods for kids. I don’t think we should beat ourselves up about it. But, I do think it’s helpful to understand a little more about those foods so we can make smart decisions.
When I read that the USDA Economic Research Service reports that kids under 12 consume about 49 pounds of sugar a year, I couldn’t believe it. All that sugar means they are more at risk for diabetes later on in their lives, along with high blood pressure and high cholesterol.
Kids should be eating no more than 25 grams of sugar. I think the confusing part about that number, for me anyway, is trying to picture what 25 grams of sugar would look like.
So I checked. Turns out 4 grams of sugar equals about 1 teaspoon. When I imagine putting 6 teaspoons of sugar in a child’s mouth, I’m like HOLY COW.
Take a look at some of the foods that we all could probably do a better job of regulating for our kids.
10 Unhealthy Foods for Kids
1. Fruit Snacks
You won’t be surprised to hear that most fruit snacks are actually candy hiding behind the word fruit. There isn’t a lot going on there in terms of fruit at all. It would be more honest to call them gummies.
Maybe instead you could try these Fox Fruit Snacks you can make at home. They’re fun and healthy.
2. Sports Drinks
Be careful of the kinds of sports drinks you let your child drink, and how often they drink them. Stay away from anything with the word “energy” on the label. Kids don’t need those stimulants.
So far as the electrolytes in sports drinks, if your child is eating right, they don’t need them in a drink.
If your kiddo plays hard in sports or if a doctor says to give them Gatorade after a bout of vomiting, that’s okay. Otherwise, opt for water when you can.
Remember, one bottle of Gatorade has 36 grams of sugar.
3. Apple Juice
You’ve probably heard by now that apple juice has traces of arsenic in it. The ongoing argument is whether it has enough to harm your kids. Arsenic causes cancer, but I’ll let you take a look at what the FDA says (click here) and decide for yourself where you land on that.
However, the sugar content is ridiculous. In one popular brand, there are 28 grams of sugar in one serving, which we know is more than a child should have in one day. The other brands I looked at are pretty much the same.
Every mom knows soda is bad for kids. It’s bad for their teeth and can contribute to health problems later in life. There are 64 grams of sugar in one root beer, for example. Nothing good can come from kids drinking soda, so I would definitely recommend ditching or limiting the soda intake.
5. Granola Bars
The problem with granola bars is that the word granola tricks us into thinking we’re giving our kids something healthy. Don’t get me wrong. Some granola bars are a good choice for a kid’s snack. Read the ingredients to choose the right ones.
But some, I’m sorry to say, don’t have anything healthy in them that’s enough to warrant even pretending they’re healthy. Today’s Parent has a great post that’ll help you make the right decision when choosing shopping for granola bars your kids will love.
No surprise here. We all know what we’re doing when we give our kids brightly colored cereal.
Take a look at Cocoa Puffs, for example. For 3/4 cup, not counting the milk, there are 23 carbs and 10 grams of sugar. Fruit Loops have 26 carbs and 12 grams of sugar per 1 cup. To find the nutrition information about all cereals, visit Nutrition Resource.
7. Hot Dogs
For children under 3, hot dogs are the top cause of choking. Johns Hopkins Children’s pediatrician Nisha Kapadia, M.D said, “…the hot dog has just the right size and consistency to perfectly block the airway, it’s the perfect plug that doesn’t allow any air to get through.”
Additionally, hot dogs have nitrates and nitrates can damage cells and turn into molecules that cause cancer. Nitrates are in lots of processed meats.
8. Packaged Pre-Prepared Lunches
The CDC says 9 out of 10 kids are eating more sodium every day than they should. They should have 1200 mg or less a day. One Lunchable with turkey and cheese has 1100 mg.
Take a look at this ridiculously long ingredient list for the turkey and cheddar Lunchable.
Ingredients: ROAST WHITE TURKEY – CURED, SMOKE FLAVOR ADDED: WHITE TURKEY, WATER, POTASSIUM LACTATE, MODIFIED CORN STARCH, CONTAINS LESS THAN 2% OF SALT, DEXTROSE, CARRAGEENAN, SODIUM PHOSPHATES, SODIUM DIACETATE, SODIUM ASCORBATE, SMOKE FLAVOR, SODIUM NITRITE, NATURAL AND ARTIFICIAL FLAVOR. PASTEURIZED PREPARED CHEDDAR CHEESE PRODUCE: MILK, WHEY, MILK PROTEIN CONCENTRATE, MILKFAT, SODIUM CITRATE, SALT, LACTIC ACID, SORBIC ACID AS A PRESERVATIVE, OLEORESIN PAPRIKA (COLOR), ANNATTO (COLOR), CHEESE CULTURE, ENZYMES, WHEY PROTEIN CONCENTRATE, WITH STARCH ADDED FOR SLICE SEPARATION. CONTAINS: MILK, WHEAT CRACKERS: ENRICHED FLOUR (WHEAT FLOUR, NIACIN, REDUCED IRON, THIAMINE MONONITRATE [VITAMIN B1], RIBOFLAVIN [VITAMIN B2],FOLIC ACID), SOYBEAN OIL, WHOLE WHEAT FLOUR, SUGAR, PARTIALLY HYDROGENATED COTTONSEED OIL, SALT, HIGH FRUCTOSE CORN SYRUP, LEAVENING (BAKING SODA, CALCIUM PHOSPHATE), WHEY (FROM MILK), SOY LECITHIN (EMULSIFIER). CONTAINS: WHEAT, MILK, SOY.
What the HECK are all those things, anyway? And the cheese? It’s not actually cheese. It’s only part cheese.
HuffPo reports: “The “100 percent turkey” turns out to be something less than that, what with the added water, potassium lactate, modified corn starch, salt, dextrose, carrageenan, sodium phosphates, sodium diacetate, sodium ascorbate, sodium nitrite, natural and artificial flavor, and smoke flavor.”
9. Toaster Pastries
Pop-Tarts have 16 grams of sugar in each one. But who eats just one, right? Two Pop-Tarts have 32 grams of sugar.
The calories in a Pop-Tart are empty calories. If you want your child to eat fruit, this isn’t the way to do it because they only have 10% fruit and the rest is flavoring. This Penguin Bagel Breakfast is quick and easy and super cute.
10. Boxed Macaroni and Cheese
Mac n’ cheese is always a favorite and it’s so quick to make. However, boxed mac n’ cheese is full of sodium, GMOs, sodium, and artificial coloring. Making homemade mac n’ cheese is a much healthier option, especially if you throw in some veggies.
What foods do you keep away from your kids?
Are there things on this list you refuse to let your child eat? Do you allow them in moderation? If you have tricks and tips to get your child to eat things that are good for them in place of these, it would be great to hear what they are.