5 Popular Kids' Foods That Seem Healthy But Aren't

5 Popular Kids' Foods That Seem Healthy But Aren't

Article By: Dominica Dieffenbach, RDN

Dominica is a Registered Dietitian and mom of 2 kiddos currently specializing in the special needs pediatric population. She has over 15 years of experience as an RD, working with a wide variety of patients to provide them with individualized medical nutrition therapy and education.

With all of the buzz words on food packaging such as “all natural”, “gluten-free”, “whole grain”, “non-GMO”, and “low sodium”, it can be confusing and challenging to make informed decisions at the grocery store. Seeing these phrases can lead us to believe we are choosing nutrient-dense and healthful foods, but in reality, we could be making better choices for ourselves and our children. Below are a few foods to take a closer look at and consider swapping out for healthier alternatives!

1) Multi-grain bread.

Sure, when we see all the little nuts and seeds on a loaf of bread, it definitely makes us think it must be healthy! However, taking a closer look at the ingredients, these breads often still list unbleached, enriched wheat flour as the first ingredient... And they have less than 3 grams of dietary fiber per slice.

A better bet: 100% whole wheat bread. If the word "whole" is missing, or not the first or second ingredient listed, then the flour has been processed and many of the vitamins, minerals, and fiber have been removed. Remember — wheat flour does not equal whole wheat flour!

2) Crunchy snack foods.

When munching on veggie straws, pretzels, microwave popcorn, or baked sweet potato chips, the additives and preservatives generally outweigh the nutrients being provided. While there may be some traces of veggies in these snacks, it’s usually in powdered form and far from a full serving of vegetables. Plus, these snacks are generally made from enriched white flour. Microwave popcorn often contains partially hydrogenated oils, which are heart-harming trans-fats.

A better bet: When craving a crunch, whole foods such as fruits, veggies, and raw nuts are the most nutrient-dense choice. If it’s a little salt or spice you’re after as well, try sprinkling some chili-lime powder on fruits and veggies, mixing a homemade Greek yogurt ranch dip, and/or adding natural peanut butter on the side. Freezing grapes and blueberries will make them extra crunchy, a wonderful treat on a warm spring day.

3) Instant oatmeal.

Oats can pack a punch as far as providing fiber, vitamins, and minerals and can help with regulating blood sugar levels — all of which are great things... Babies are often started on oatmeal flakes as a first food, but the instant flavored oatmeal packets many kids are eating nowadays are packed with as many grams of added sugar as Fruit Loops!

A better bet: Opting for rolled or steel cut oats (and adding fresh or thawed frozen fruit for a little sweetness) will decrease the grams of added sugars to zero and provide additional fiber, vitamins, and minerals from the fruit. Don’t forget a sprinkle of cinnamon!

4) Fruit juice.

Fruit juice (yes, even 100% juice!) contains high amounts of sugar and lacks the fiber, vitamins, and minerals that come from eating the whole fruits with the skin. The sugar can wreak havoc on kids’ teeth, contribute to obesity, and cause a preference for sweeter foods later in life. Many fruit-flavored beverages, which are not 100% juice, contain high fructose corn syrup, which can contribute to fatty liver disease.

A better bet: Limit younger kiddos to no more than 4oz of 100% juice per day and 6oz maximum for older kids. Find other alternatives to juice such as sparkling water, fruit infused water, or herbal tea.

5) Gummy vitamins.

Did you know gummy vitamins contain as much sugar per weight as a cookie? Not to mention they stick to teeth and cause cavities! Gummy vitamins are not nearly as healthy as the packaging and advertising might lead parents to believe...

A better bet: Choose Renzo's Vitamins for all the nutritious charm with none of the gummy gunk!

Renzo's Vitamins provides general recommendations, not to be construed as medical advice.

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