When it comes to the best and worst foods for kids, oftentimes parents have little bargaining power. There are some obvious healthy foods—berries and sliced bananas on cereal—and unhealthy foods—a cheeseburger and a side of fries for lunch every day. Then there are the foods that parents think are nourishing and delicious, but that actually have very little nutritional value and a whole heap of hidden fats and sugars.
Here are ten of the worst foods that you can feed your children when it comes to breakfast, lunches, dinners and snack options…
1. Kids’ Breakfast Cereal
Sure, that box of Cinnamon Toast Crunch or Captain Crunch might boast a boatload of vitamins and minerals on the label, but when you consider the amount of sugar and processed ingredients per serving, the miniscule amount of nutritional value they offer doesn’t count for much. Instead, when you shop for a suitable cereal for your breakfast table, go for brands that contain at least 3-grams of fiber per serving and less than 10 grams of sugar. The best morning cereal that you can get junior hooked on is whole grain oatmeal, it’s high in fiber, vitamins, and minerals, and you can sprinkle on some berries and mix it with yogurt, or a dab of honey or real maple syrup.
2. Granola Bars
I know this might be a shocker, but granola does not a healthy snack make. And granola bars marketed to kids lack nutritional value more than the adult focus brands—they’re loaded with sugar and added ingredients like chocolate chips, marshmallows, candy, high fructose syrup, and artificial dyes, which makes one granola bar about as healthy as two cookies. Instead, try whipping up a batch of homemade energy bars with natural ingredients like almond or peanut butter, raisins, coconut, whole grain cereal, honey, and dried fruit and nuts.
3. Luncheon Meats
Bologna, smoked ham, and even roast beef are a kids’ lunchbox staple. However, if your child eats a sliced meat sandwich every day, you may be packing them a very dangerous and toxic food. Take a good look at the label, does junior’s favorite lunch meat contain nitrates, a preservative used in food processing that drastically increases the risk of heart disease and cancer.
4. Snack Cakes
I know your child looks forward to that Ho-Ho, Twinkie, or Wagon Wheel you pack in their lunch box every day. But as much as we love treating our kids, snack cakes are ripe with trans fats, the most unhealthy processes fat known to mankind. So if your child needs something sweet to cap off every meal, pack some mixed berries and grapes in their lunch pail or bake cookies or squares from scratch using natural ingredients.
5. French Fries
I know that most parents are aware that feeding their kids French Fries at every meal is asking for weight gain and the development of a very unhealthy habit. However, moderation is the key here. If you’re going to feed your little one fries, keep them to a few meals per week and make them a side, not the starring food feature. French fries offer very little in the way of nutritional value—they’re super high in fat and sodium. Unfortunately, the same goes for potato chips, cheesy snacks, and any fried and puffed snack food. Instead, opt for baked chips or make your kids baked potato wedges instead.
If you are in the habit of ordering pizza several times a week after a stressful day, be aware that the pizza that comes to your day is a far cry from the kind you bake in your oven at home. So put down the phone. You can quickly throw together a homemade pie with store bought, whole wheat crust, natural, low-fat cheese, shredded chicken, and tons of veggies.