It’s a tricky world out there for parents trying to provide their kids with healthy snack options. Everywhere you look you see products that are specifically targeted for young children, and the enticing boxes and packaging all say reassuring things like “Made with real fruit” “Natural colors” and “Part of a balanced breakfast,” just to name a few.
Health-conscious parents need to be vigilant when they’re reading the ingredients of those products, many of which are loaded with artificial colors, sugar, sodium and preservatives. Surprisingly, some of the most common items that appear in kids’ lunch boxes at school are in fact quite unhealthy. Luckily there are always alternatives that are a better choice.
Here are the top five secretly unhealthy snacks:
Most of these sweet, processed fruit products are targeted at young children, and the companies go to great lengths to shape the treats like your child’s favorite Disney character, TV cartoon or superhero. The packages advertise the inclusion of real fruit, but in fact the benefit of the small amount of actual fruit present in the snacks is far outweighed by the presence of nasty ingredients like white sugar, corn syrup, preservatives and artificial dyes.
An obvious healthier choice would be a piece of fresh fruit like a banana or an apple, but you can also offer dried fruit occasionally. Kids love the sweetness of dried apricots, raisins, mango and pineapple (watch that no sugar has been added). Dried banana chips or apple slices make a good snack as well. If you have a dehydrator at home, you can even make your own and save money! There are also wonderful recipes for natural fruit leather online that don’t include a lot of the unhealthy ingredients.
These tasty little treats are a favorite with most kids, and the adorable fish-shape is a hit with toddlers. Unfortunately, the main ingredient in the crackers is unbleached flour, which has very little nutritional value. They are also very high in sodium.
Whole grain, low-sodium crackers with a little extra hit of protein, like cheese slices or hummus, are a much better choice for your child’s growing body.
Ah, the classic granola bar. A staple in most kids’ school lunches, the store-bought varieties come brimming with sugar, oil, preservatives and anything from chocolate chunks to marshmallows to candy “yogurt” coatings studded with sprinkles. There are healthier varieties on the market, but always watch the label for artificial flavors, white sugar, corn syrup and modified milk ingredients.
Alternative: You can easily make your own delicious granola bars at home. Pack them with nuts and seeds for protein, and use honey or maple syrup instead of white sugar. These sweet and crunchy bars will be a delectable snack your kids will soon become addicted to.
Another product specifically targeted toward kids, these super-sweet yogurts could give pudding a run for its money. Available in tubes, as a pre-bottled drink for easy eating on the playground, or made into conveniently small containers for child-sized appetites, you need to watch for the added white sugar and artificial fruit flavors.
Alternative: Buy plain, preservative-free yogurt and drizzle with honey or add fresh berries. You can also try this little trick that kids love: put a spoonful of fruit-juice-sweetened jam at the bottom of the bowl, cover with yogurt and let them swirl it through.
Who knew muffins could be so unhealthy? The truth is, commercially baked muffins are loaded with sugar and fat, and many are made with white flour with little to no nutrients. A large muffin can contain a staggering 650 calories.
Alternative: Making your own muffins is always a better bet, and if you freeze some, they can last for a couple of weeks. Use banana or applesauce as a natural sweetener instead of sugar, and you can cut down on the butter and oil in your recipes as well. Use whole-grain flours and oats, and add coconut and nuts or seeds to make your child a yummy power muffin for extra energy.
Sometimes it’s easy to get pulled in by the clever marketing or convenience of some of these foods, but with a little extra planning, you can either make your own or buy much healthier options, which will encourage good eating habits and set your child up for a lifetime of good health.
Also, if you are dealing with food battles with your children (picky eating, only wanting sweets, won’t eat vegetables), check out The Food Sense Program. It is a complete guide to help you navigate through those issues and more!
It’s also backed by a 12-month, 100% ‘No Questions Asked’ Money-Back guarantee if you are not satisfied. Click here to get immediate access!
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