Surprise! Five of the Worst Kids' Foods in Your Kitchen

I will forever be teased by my family for trying to pass organic raisins as a snack for my daughter’s soccer team.  I was pretty much laughed off the field. So I let it go when the brownies come out and sometimes even join in. We cannot control what our children eat when they are out of the house, especially as they get older. Also, there is a fine line between teaching your children about healthy foods and creating a forbidden food obsession. I do think we can make choices about what we stock at home so that our children realize that there are many satisfying options. There are some foods that the media has misrepresented as “healthy” and there are some foods that are just plain unhealthy. Leave those to the soccer snacks and Halloween treats and just turn the other way…

Five Worst Kids’ Foods:

1.  Fruit snacks.

Most have very little fruit and are packed with sugar. Try 100% fruit bars or dried fruit. But remember, even fruit has sugar and the stickiness can promote tooth decay.

2.  Granola bars.

Sounds healthy, right? Some are but read the labels. Opt for bars that do not have preservatives, high fructose corn syrup or more than 10 grams of sugar. Or make your own (more recipes below). Treat granola bars more like a candy bar alternative than an everyday snack.

3.  Sugar cereals.

Who doesn’t love sugar cereals? Cinnamon Toast Crunch is heavenly but 10 grams of sugar in 3/4 cup?  First of all, who only eats 3/4 cup of cereal? Then consider that this 10 grams is almost one half of the daily recommended intake for women. Children need even less sugar per day (about 12-17 grams per day depending on age). One cup of Fruit Loops contains 15g of sugar so that pretty much eats up the daily sugar allowance (even without the sugar from the milk). Opt for low sugar (8g sugar or less) and no preservative cereals. Trader Joe’s has a great selection at reasonable prices. Check out my recent post: Kids and Sugar, Together in Surprising Places.

4.  Deli meats and hot dogs.

They are high in sodium, fat and most contain nitrates which have been shown to cause cancer. There are nitrate free, low sodium options and these are a better alternative. This can make lunch packing difficult because one of the easiest lunches is a ham or turkey sandwich. Try some creative lunch ideas.

5.  Yogurts.

Many yogurts are more like ice cream. Some contain large amounts of sugar, calories, saturated fat, cholesterol and artificial colors and flavors. However, there are many benefits to yogurt if you choose carefully. Yogurt can provide calcium and vitamin D, probiotics which promote digestive health and may reduce the risk of high blood pressure. Choose organic yogurt with lower sugar and no artificial flavors or colors. I like this blog post for more recommendations for best yogurt for kids..

Don’t forget about drinks too! Sweetened juice, soda and sports drinks can quickly add unnecessary sugar, calories and artificial additives to your child’s diet. Choose 100% fruit (sparingly), water and milk instead of sweetened juice, soda and sports drinks. Unless your child is sweating heavily or involved in extremely competitive training, they do not need to drink sports drinks.

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About the Contributor

Amy Anzilotti

Amy Anzilotti

Dr. Amy Wagner Anzilotti is a Board Certified Pediatrician living in Wilmington, DE with her husband and three school age children. She publishes the blog, Dr. Amy Kids, and you can find her on Facebook.