When you become a parent, your ‘to do’ list instantly gets longer. As your child begins to walk and grow, nutrition becomes a greater concern. This is especially true when there are so many tempting treats out there, vying for your child’s attention.
For kids (and adults, for that matter), tasty foods and succulent sweets are part of the joy of life. It’s hard to imagine depriving your child of these things completely. Most parents see their child’s diet as a question of balance between healthy foods that keep the body strong, and not-so-healthy foods that bring joy to childhood.
There are more choices than ever today, and parents face a constant stream of information about what foods are healthy and what foods should be avoided. How do you know what to believe? How do you separate fact from fiction?
Looking to your urgent care center, family doctor, or trusted medical organizations who post information online is a good place to start. There are a million perspectives out there, and as a parent, it’s your right to make the choices you think is best for your child. However, in order to make those choices, more information is better.
That said, we’ve put together a list of three foods that are generally unhealthy for kids in particular. This isn’t to say that children should never be given these foods — but it’s important to moderate them carefully, and understand what they actually do in the body.
1. Sugary breakfast cereal
Cereal companies have made a mint by putting colorful cartoon characters on boxes and loading the contents with sugar. This may get kids excited, but it won’t help their physical development. Don’t be fooled by claims that these unhealthy breakfast cereals contain an abundance of vitamins and minerals, either. The sheer amount of sugar and other processed ingredients give them a very low nutritional profile overall. An excess of sugar consumed daily can even lead to diabetes and other health problems in growing children.
Healthy breakfast cereals have much less sugar and more natural fibers. Look for cereals with 12 grams of sugar per serving or less. Better yet, serve oatmeal with fresh berries and honey for breakfast. It’s tasty and full of good nutrients.
2. Snack cakes and granola bars
You wouldn’t normally put Twinkies into the same category as granola bars, but in many cases, they’re closer nutritionally than you might think. Many granola bars on the market are essentially sugar breakfast cereals in ‘bar’ form, and are not healthy at all. Snack cakes are much worse, of course. Aside from all the sugar, many are packed with unhealthy trans fats.
3. Juice boxes and fruit snacks
Like many children’s breakfast cereals, juice boxes and fruit snacks are not exactly what they seem. Many of them claim to be packed with nutrients, but when you read the label, you find huge amounts of sugar, preservatives and processed ingredients. There is often very little natural fruit involved in these products. This is yet another argument for homemade and natural alternatives.
Can eating healthier be easy?
When it comes to meals, avoiding processed and fried foods is always good practice. The more your child’s diet is made up of healthy vegetables, proteins, fruits and grains, the better off they’ll be. Snacks are often more difficult to control because they’re supposed to be easy and quick. It’s tempting to buy foods that are cheap and ready to eat, but these often lack nutritional value. Focusing on fruits, nuts, healthy trail mix, and natural snacks with low sugar content will be much better for your child’s health and development in the long run.