We all want to feed our kids nutritious and healthy foods. Getting some protein, vegetables, and fruit on the table may not always be the easiest task, but we can feel good about a dinner of boxed mac and cheese if we throw in a side of broccoli and a few handfuls of blueberries. But what about all those snacks they are constantly asking for? Those little packages of goodies are easy for on the go, but many common foods promoted as "good for you," are surprisingly unhealthy snacks for kids.
Unless you have time to dissect every label in the snack aisle of the grocery store, you may be going on the common myth than many snack foods advertised as healthy for kids are, indeed, healthy. But hidden within many of these trusted treats are additives that tip the nutrition scale to the unhealthy side. The biggest culprit? Sugar.
Many of the ingredients found in the common snacks that children crave are increasing their intake of calories and the wrong kind of carbohydrates, while decreasing the amount of vitamins and minerals parents depend on to give their child energy and keep their hunger satisfied. With busy lives and full schedules, parents need snacks they can depend on. Learn which snacks to avoid (or eat in moderation) and which healthy options to choose the next time your kid screams, "I'm hungry!"
1. Squeeze Yogurt
A staple at play dates and in lunch boxes, squeezable yogurt leaves a little more to be desired.
According to The Huffington Post, parents need to be aware of some ingredients that may affect their child's health. Aside from the a significant amount of added sugar, those yogurt tubes are mixed with carragean and food dyes. Both ingredients have been studied, and although results have differed, experts agree that neither add any nutritional benefit to a child's diet.
2. Instant Oatmeal
A warm bowl of oatmeal can be a great way to set your child up with energy for the day. To make sure you're morning oats are giving your child the fiber and protein they need, Cooking Light advised choosing steel cut oats, whole oats, or whole groats over the prepackaged versions of oatmeal.
Those little pouches may be easy, but they contain added sugar and the wrong type of carbs needed to sustain a feeling of fullness. Opt instead to make your own oatmeal from scratch and serve with chopped apples, berries, or nuts.
3. Fruit Juice
When it comes to fruit juices, the key may be moderation. While there are plenty of vitamins and minerals provided by a glass of fruit juice, the sugar content can rival that of a soda. This information comes from an interview with Susan Jebb, who heads up diet and obesity studies at Cambridge University. As Jebb told The Guardian, "Fruit juice isn't the same as intact fruit and it has as much sugar as many classical sugar drinks," said Jebb. "If you are going to drink it, you should dilute it."
4. Gummy Snacks
Many things have gone gummy these days - even vitamins and supplements are shaped into hearts and stars for easy consumption. But taking a deeper look at what makes something gummy, will make you think twice before stocking up on this favorite kid snack staple.
As The Huffington Post reported, gummy snacks are made gummy by gelatin and carnauba wax; but there are other nasty culprits lurking in those fruit flavored treats, such as different types of sugars and food colorings. Before you throw yourself on the floor and cry, there is good news for diehard gummy lovers — there are many of organic versions of gummy snacks on the market that do not contain these ingredients.
5. Granola / Energy Bars
I know, I know. You need to believe in the almighty bar to satisfy your snack-obsessed chid. The good news is, you can find bars that have good nutritional value, you just need to know what to avoid. Real Simple suggested checking granola bar labels for added sugars and sweeteners, corn syrups, and enriched wheat flour — all of which bump-up the calorie count and saturated fat. Once you know what to weed out, find the brands that offer bars that are low in sugar, but high in fiber and protein. If all else fails, you can always make your own.
6. Reduced-Fat Peanut Butter
Jelly's delicious soul mate has a secret. In a face-off between regular peanut butter and it's cousin, reduced-fat peanut butter, Eating Well found that the natural, full fat version was the winner. Although the fat grams in reduced-fat were lower than full fat, the amount of calories were the same. Not to mention the add-ins used in reduced-fat increases the amount of carbs, sugar and salt. The next time you're grabbing for the PB, make sure to check the label for added ingredients.
7. Packaged Turkey
Even the pickiest of eaters can be coaxed into lunch with a turkey roll-up. But the quality of deli meats is a sliding scale, and many of the chemicals used to preserve those sandwich slices can have some serious consequences.
An article on Today Food revealed that the nitrates used for the preservation of processed meats contains cancer-causing compounds. But nitrates are just one in a long list of ingredients that make cold cuts less than worthy to be called "healthy." To stay on the safe side, opt for sandwiches made from pieces of meat you have prepared at home, ideally all natural or organic.
8. Dried Cranberries
Prevention put dried cranberries and raisins head-to-head and here is what they found. While dried cranberries have slightly more fiber, they contain less iron, magnesium, and potassium than raisins; and are — no shock here — higher in sugar. Although many of the nutritional values were pretty close, the raisin edged out dried cranberries enough to make it the better choice for smart snacking.
9. Yogurt Covered Snacks
Pretzels, raisins, and nuts all seem a little more special with that sweet yogurt coating. But isn't yogurt something that should be eaten with a spoon, not something that turns almonds white?
According to Cooking Light, the mixture of oil, milk powder, and yogurt powder is creates the candy-like coating for yogurt covered treats. Besides sweetening an otherwise nutritious snack, this yogurt coating increases the amount of sugar, saturated fat, and trans fat. For healthy twist with the same feel, try rainbow fruit skewers with vanilla honey dip or chocolate-dipped bananas.