All parents can relate, it is difficult to ensure that kids are eating well. They are often notoriously picky eaters. Healthy and balanced meals can fall by the wayside amongst the endless schedule of after school activities. Sugary snacks only fuel an existing sweet tooth. Trans fats and empty calories are often found lurking in many popular snacks, but there are a few major culprits:
- Juice boxes
Did you know that there are many hidden sugars in juice boxes? Despite the name there might not be as much juice in that container as you might think. Fruits themselves have a lot of natural sugars but many companies add more. There could also be high fructose corn syrup and artificial coloring designed to make the juice stand out on the shelf.
- Lunch combo packs
Lunch combo packs are attractive to kids because they come in bright containers with cartoon characters. The innocent exterior is a distraction for what’s within. Many combo packs have refined wheat crackers or sugary desserts that outweigh the meal itself. That doesn’t mean it’s time to dismiss all lunch packs outright. Look for packs that have fruit and protein like meat. It’s also easy to create homemade lunch boxes and circumvent the processed alternative entirely.
- Granola bars
Granola isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Many store-bought granola bars are among the most unhealthy kids snacks to avoid. Popular flavors are often full of chocolate chips. Don’t be swayed by claims of extra protein: that could be cancelled out by trans fats and sugar. The best option here is to look for granola bars that have as few ingredients as possible. Choose fruit flavors instead of chocolate. Some brands even have partial chunks of fruit inside so they haven’t been blended down to nothing.
- Veggie chips
Think veggie chips are healthy? Think again. The key word here is “chips”. Many chips are fried in oil and have a high sodium content. The amount of sodium in a veggie chip is often the same as a regular potato chip. Sunflower seed oil is the most common frying oil used. While it’s high in omega-3 fatty acids there is the concept of “too much of a good thing”, especially if a kid polishes off a whole bag. The actual vegetable content in these chips is actually disappointingly low: sometimes as little as 65% or smaller. Not only that, it’s impossible to think of a veggie chip as a true substitute for real vegetables. Veggie chips can be a good introduction to get kids to enjoy their vegetables but don’t limit that part of their diet to an unhealthy snack.