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Monday, June 21, 2021

10 Children's Snacks That Are Shockingly Unhealthy

Photo by Image by StockSnap from Pixabay

Modern parents have a lot to worry about, but what to feed our kids is at the top of the list for many of us. We want them to eat fresh, nutritious food and have a lifelong healthy relationship with the things they eat. They want easy-to-eat snacks that taste good. Grocery store shelves are overflowing these days with updated versions of the snacks we grew up eating, like chips, cheese crackers, and Popsicles. However, although these new options may seem like they are more nutritious and wholesome, many are actually filled with added sugar, refined flours, chemical additives, and sodium.

1. Cereal Bars

We all have mornings when we need grab-and-go breakfasts. Cereal bars are easy for those rushed days, and the package says they contain fruit and whole grains: That should be healthy, right? The problem is that cereal bars are typically loaded with a tablespoon or more of sugar in each serving, and along with this dose of sugar comes trans fat and a host of artificial dyes and flavors. Instead, try keeping boiled eggs or protein bars on hand for easy, portable breakfasts that aren't hiding massive amounts of sugar.

2. Fruit Snacks

Fruit is a wholesome snack, but a piece of fruit is a far cry from a package of fruit snacks. Most fruit snacks are made from sugar-filled juice concentrates, actual sugar, and corn syrup. They also contain food coloring and artificial flavors. When it comes right down to it, fruit snacks are basically just candy with good marketing. A better alternative is to eat fiber-rich fruit or snack on fruit leathers or dehydrated fruit with few (if any) added ingredients.

3. Graham Crackers

Graham crackers entered our food culture as one of the first health food items, but even though they are still the snack of choice for many schools and parents, the bad news is that they basically offer the same nutritional value as a cookie. Their ingredient list includes sweeteners and highly refined flour. Does that mean you should panic each time another parent serves up graham crackers? Of course not! They are OK as an occasional treat, but try not to make them a daily staple.

4. Juice

I certainly grew up drinking juice, and I still love a cold glass of OJ on a hot morning. You might think that since it comes from fruit, it has to be a wholesome, healthy choice. But juicing fruit removes the fiber, which is a vital part of a healthy diet and also what helps our bodies to digest the natural sugar in fruit more slowly and evenly. Without the fiber, all of that sugar hits your bloodstream at once. Currently, the recommendation from the American Academy of Pediatrics is to limit children under 6 to no more than eight ounces of juice a day, while elementary-aged children should have no more than 12 ounces a day. Children under the age of one shouldn't have juice at all. Drinking too many sugary beverages increases the likelihood that children will develop weight issues or diabetes.

5. Muffins

Many kids (and adults) would love to start their morning off with a doughnut, but few of us would call that a healthy breakfast. Muffins, though, are far more likely to end up on the breakfast table. I've got bad news for you, though: If you're buying muffins at the store, you might as well be buying doughnuts. Commercially prepared muffins are basically cake. Healthier muffins can be made at home using whole-wheat flour or a flour alternative and mixing in zucchini or bananas. You could also seek out a bakery that specializes in healthy baked goods and get your muffins there.

6. Prepackaged Lunches

So many parents have been tempted by the bento box craze. After all, small bites of basically healthy food very much fits with how kids eat. And often, those boxes are easier for smaller children than a large sandwich. You'd think that the prepackaged versions of these meals should be a great choice, too, but you'd be wrong. They are filled with sodium: In fact, many of them have more than the entire recommended amount of sodium that children should get daily.

7. Reduced-Fat Peanut Butter

Most of us have internalized the message that reduced-fat foods are always better than full-fat versions. However, when it comes to peanut butter, that's not the case. Natural, full-fat peanut butter is made simply from peanuts and is chock full of healthy fats and protein. But when that fat is removed, it has to be replaced by something, and often, those "somethings" include unhealthy fats, sugar, and corn syrup. You're much better off choosing natural peanut butter or an alternative like almond butter or sun butter.

8. Sports Drinks

On a hot day when your kid is playing hard for an hour or more, sports drinks can help stave off dehydration and keep vital minerals in balance. But any other time, they're not a great choice. A bottle of a typical sports drink has 200 calories and a lot of sugar and sodium. Instead, for shorter exercise sessions or on cooler days, opt to give the kids cold water. If they want a little flavor, float orange or cucumber slices in their water bottles. This will help them establish the habit of reaching for water when they are thirsty. That's the kind of habit that will help them maintain a healthy weight into adulthood.

9. Veggie Puffs and Straws

They're made out of veggies and offers kids a snappy crunch, so you might think that veggie puffs make a great snack. But not so fast: It turns out that these lunch-box favorites are filled with refined grains like rice, soy flour, and corn flour, and those refined carbs are typically the first three ingredients, meaning they make up more of the puffs than the various vegetables used to flavor them. Need a healthier option that still provides crunch? Consider options like baked kale chips or freeze-dried snap peas.

10. Yogurt

Yogurt seems like such a healthy, nutrient-dense snack to offer our kids, and lots of yogurts are actually packed with vitamins. But the yogurt specifically marketed as being kid-friendly usually hides an unhealthy secret: up to two teaspoons of sugar in a 2.25-ounce container of yogurt! Food dyes and artificial flavors also are on the ingredient lists of popular yogurt varieties aimed at the lunch-box set. A far healthier alternative is to mix some fruit or even a small serving of jam into regular yogurt.

Find more about the author: Kim Hart

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