All moms face the same struggle: finding the perfect, non-messy, healthy snack that can be packed on the go. The easier it is, the better. Unfortunately, though, food manufacturers and marketing teams know that very well. They focus their efforts on making their products enticing to moms, concealing the fact that their ingredients are absolutely awful for our kiddos. We should never assume that foods targeted at children won’t be packed with the bad stuff – In the processed world, it’s all about the money!
And since children are attracted to bright, colorful snacks… well, you know what that means. Healthy, unprocessed, natural foods are never neon-colored, Mamas, remember that… No matter what the label says!
Here are five popular snacks that you may be fooled into thinking aren’t so bad for your child. Think twice! They really are.
It’s easy to read these cereal packages and choose to settle for “good source of whole grains” or “made with real fruit” instead of really looking at the ingredients in question.
The sad, scary truth is that popular cereal brands are 40 to 50% sugar by weight. If corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, fructose (a manipulative trick to get you to think it’s a “healthier” option, when it’s actually just a new title for HFCS), or any other sugar in the top three ingredients, then move on. Most sugary cereals made from refined grained are stripped of their fiber and nutrients and all you end up with is a blood sugar spike.
Alternative: Whole Foods has many options similar to these traditional cereal brands, only healthier and with less sugar. Add a banana, berries, and cinnamon for a healthier, filling breakfast!
We assume that yogurt is good for our kiddos because, well, it has probiotics and dairy is good for their little bones, right?
Go-Gurt (among other brands) is literally sugar milk (sugar and corn starch are the second and third ingredients listed), and there are most likely no probiotics left in those little, plastic tubes.
Go-Gurt contains 2/3 of the daily recommended amount of sugar for children in just one tube. The thickener carrageenan, shown to cause intestinal problems in animals, and potassium sorbate, a preservative that may cause allergic reactions, nausea, diarrhea, and even DNA damage, are also used (mamavation.com).
Alternative: Aim for plain, organic yogurt (always buy organic dairy products to make sure it’s antibiotic and hormone free!) and add a spoonful of honey or maple syrup. You’ll be know exactly how much sugar you’re adding!
These “fruit” gummies are nothing but sugar, artificial colors and flavors, and should be viewed as candy, not a healthy snack. Claims like “Made with real fruit” or “made with real fruit juice” don’t mean anything because of all the added sugar.
Remember: if sugar is in the top three ingredients, don’t buy it. And the longer the ingredient list is… the less healthy it most likely is!
Alternative: Dried fruit (apricots, plums, figs, mango…)
A few issues with Goldfish that make it an absolute no no for the kiddos:
- Enriched wheat flour seems harmless, but it means that many of the natural nutrients are stripped away in the processed flour and that things have to be added back in.
- The iron added is a metallic form that our bodies just can’t absorb fully.
- As for the folic acid, research now shows that the fortification of foods with folic acid is linked to cancer.
- The cheddar cheese is not organic, meaning that the cows ate a diet of genetically modified grains and then produced milk for the cheese. Conventional dairy may also contain rbST, another Monsanto product, which causes many health problems. The cows are injected with this genetically engineered hormone (banned in Canada, Europe, New Zealand, and Australia) to stimulate milk production.
- Vegetable oils, unlike olive or coconut oils that are extracted from pressing, are made in a very unnatural way. They are heated to unsafe temperatures, oxidized, and treated with petroleum solvents. Then the oil is treated with chemicals to make the color and odor of the oil more pleasant. On top of that, they are also made from GMO crops like corn and soy (Mamavation.com).
The issue with juice boxes is that they are essentially all sugar. The kids drink them out of thirst, get a sugar rush, and then crash.
All types of fruit juice are problematic, but apple juice is the most concerning because parents seem to think it’s healthier than orange, grape, or cherry juices, but they’re wrong. Even 100 percent apple juice can sack kids with 160 calories a cup, most of it sugar.
The claim that juices are “fortified with vitamin C and minerals” is only a way to manipulate parents – don’t buy into it. Children aren’t usually lacking in these nutrients.
Although we know soda should not be given to our kids, fruit juice seems to be one of those misconceptions when it actually is just as bad. Most popular brands are also made with high fructose corn syrup and artificial colors… so read labels carefully!
Alternative: Look for juice boxes that contain 100% organic fruit juice, with nothing artificial (and not from concentrate). Even better: make your own, fresh juices at home for extra vitamins and nutrients!
These may seem like a healthy snack, but really they contain very little protein and fiber, and hit kids with so much sugar all at once that it’s just as dangerous as a candy bar.
Read ingredients lists to make sure the bars contain real nuts, fruit, whole grains, and no high-fructose corn syrup or other added sugars. The fewer ingredients listed the better!
Alternative: Make these delicious, homemade granola bars (with nuts, dried fruit, and dark chocolate) that I whipped up this summer. Delicious!