7 Foods You Should Never Give To Your Kids
“Mom, can I please have that one?” How many times do you hear that refrain as you’re strolling down the grocery aisle with your kids? Before you reach for that colorful cereal box or grab that bag of chips in the junk aisle, think again. Flip over that package and check out the list of ingredients. No, really. Look at it.
Half the time, you’ll be left wondering if there’s actually any food in that food.
Kids love sugar and starchy snacks, but thankfully there are a lot more organic alternatives than there used to be, and if you’re picky at the store, you can probably find some healthier snacks and treats (read: actual food) that your kids will appreciate. In the meantime, here are some super dubious “foods” never to give your kids!
1. Packaged lunch meats
Seriously, eww. Who came up with those weird packets of meat? Clearly someone thinking of convenience, but not nutrition. Yeah, it’s easy to slap a few pre-sliced pieces of meat between a couple slices of bread for your kid’s lunch, but check the label. Many of these packaged lunch meats contain sodium nitrite. Research studies have implicated processed meats containing sodium nitrites with a 67% increase in pancreatic cancer, and though FDA has not ruled processed meats as openly dangerous, they are best avoided. A good alternative? Shop for organic meats. Slow-roast large chunks with herbs you like and then slice them for your sandwiches.
2016 edit – WHO has confirmed already: processed meats are carcinogenics. DO NOT give this to kids!
2. Fake cheese
Velveeta is a cheese product designed to melt perfectly. But that’s just the thing. It isn’t really cheese; it’s just a cheese byproduct. In fact, according to FDA rules, you can’t even call it dairy. It’s full of added preservatives and coloring agents. Is it bad for you? It does have nutritional value, and actually, a serving of Velveeta cheese has similar value to a serving of real cheese. But it’s still not cheese. Don’t you want your kids eating real cheese? And who knows what all those additives do?
And then there is that shredded cheese you can buy in packages. Once again, it’s convenient, but it contains wood chips to keep it from clumping. This isn’t necessarily bad for you, but it’s not exactly good-old-fashioned wholesome cheese either. Buy your kids real cheese!
3. Twinkies and other snack cakes
Snack cakes like Twinkies are delightfully cheap and a sure way to satisfy any kid’s sugar craving. But they are also loaded with trans fats, which are the unhealthiest kinds of fats you can eat. There are a whole lot of dessert choices that are better than that! Plus, these things are just packed with calories. Feed your kid Twinkies and you will soon be begging your child to exercise. Don’t make your job as a parent twice as hard!
That chocolate milk product with the cute rabbit on it is anything but cute. First off, a single bottle has 48 grams of sugar in it. Secondly, it is full of artificial ingredients, including a pretty dubious thickening agent called carrageenan. Carrageenan is controversial, and has been implicated in tumors and gastrointestinal inflammation and all kinds of health issues in animal studies. The jury is still out on whether it poses a health risk to humans, but why take a chance?
When I was a kid, my mother was obsessed with getting me to “eat your yogurt!” Only she thought yogurt was Yoplait. Once again, those little containers may seem convenient, but the come at a price. What’s inside Yoplait? Let’s see, we’ve got modified corn starch, more carrageenan, potassium sorbate (another controversial additive), and generally a freakish amount of sugar. Better alternative? Buy some organic plain yogurt with no sugar or additives. Sweeten it up with a little stevia or some fruit.
6. Kids’ breakfast cereals
Why is “Froot Loops” spelled the way it is? Probably for legal reasons. There is no actual fruit in it, so calling it “Fruit Loops” would likely be considered false advertising. The top ingredient is refined sugar. Indications are pretty good that some of the other ingredients are genetically modified. Alarming preservatives like BHT, hydrogenated oils, and icky colorings make Froot Loops even unhealthier. While Froot Loops is one of the worst, beware of other kids’ breakfast cereals! The more colorful the package, the worse the product probably is.
7. Crackers and other typical junk foods
While crackers and chips are a staple in most households (perfect for keeping your kid from bouncing off the walls with impatience while you’re cooking dinner), it’s smart to take a good look at the packages before you buy them. Take goldfish crackers for example from Pepperidge Farm. The very fact that the ingredients state, “Made with Smiles and Whole Wheat Flour” is kind of troubling. That whole “made with smiles” thing is just a plea for you not to read down the list!
With great organic alternatives available even at huge chain supermarkets these days, there are a lot of fun, tasty snack foods, treats, and staples that your kids will love. Get them hooked on those organic alternatives, and you will hear less and less pleading for unhealthy foods. In fact, if your budget is tight ignore the “organic” label, since so many organic foods are just overpriced basics. To stay frugal, instead of going completely organic at least go processed food-free. Get regular fruit, nuts, pre-cook meats.
Now and again, treat them to something ‘bad’, just so you won’t build it up in their minds as some kind of forbidden, coveted treat that they just have to have. Don’t make it a habit though! Instead, stick to real honest foods whenever you can. This will ensure your children grow up healthy and keep their taste unaltered as much as possible!