Ordering pizza, opening up a box of macaroni and cheese and grabbing ice cream at your favorite summer hot spot is inevitable when you have kids but if you really want your kids to eat healthy now and throughout their lives, it’s important to focus on healthy, fresh, whole foods.
Unfortunately, some of the worst foods for your kid’s health are heavily marketed to kids and busy moms, are in abundance on store shelves, fast food restaurants and vending machines and are making their way to homes and school lunch boxes.
Here are 10 foods kids should eat occasionally—or not at all.
Juice seems like a healthy option especially if it’s organic, not from concentrate and made with 100 percent real fruit juice, but it’s something kids shouldn’t be drinking.
For starters, juice is high in sugar. A 3.5 ounce cup of apple juice—about one serving for kids—has 9 grams of sugar. Since more fruit is needed to make fruit juice, there’s more calories, sugar and carbohydrates in juice than there is in whole fruit. Juice also strips fruit of its fiber, not a good thing for kids who don’t eat enough fiber to begin with. Drinking too much juice can also lead to cavities, weight gain or diarrhea in babies and toddlers.
Babies under 12 months old should never consume honey whether it’s raw, processed, local or purchased at the grocery store.
Although rare, there is a risk for botulism, a rare illness caused by toxins produced by clostridium botulinum, a spore-forming bacteria which can cause weakness, paralysis and even death. Before a year, babies’ immune systems are not strong enough to fend it off so they should never be given honey.
Whether it’s for breakfast or school lunch, bagels are one of the worst foods for your kid’s health.
Bagels are made with white, refined flour, which have little fiber, lack nutrition and have a high glycemic index which spikes your kid’s blood sugar. They’re also high in carbohydrates. In fact, one bagel is the equivalent of 3 slices of bread which is more than your kid should eat for breakfast.
4. Soda and Sports Drinks
Kids who drink soda and sugary drinks is at an all-time high in the U.S. Between 2011 and 2014, 63 percent of kids drank a sugar-sweetened beverage on any given day, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Studies show frequently drinking soda and sugar-sweetened beverages like sports and energy drinks is associated with health conditions like weight gain and childhood obesity, type-2 diabetes and cavities, among others.
Instead of sweet drinks, serve water instead.
5. Fruit Snacks
Fruit leather, fruit gummies and fruit snacks are one of the worst foods for your kid’s health.
Many of these snacks are marketed to parents as being a healthy choice and state they’re organic, made with real fruit and vegetable juices, have no high fructose corn syrup or artificial ingredients. Yet they’re highly processed, lack real nutrition and the fiber kids need in their diets and are high in sugar so they cater to your kid’s sweet tooth and make them prefer sweet foods.
Save fruit snacks for birthday parties, Halloween or special holidays.
6. Peanut Butter and Jelly
Unless your kid has food allergies, you probably feed him peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. PB& J is easy, affordable and a sure-fire way to get your picky eater to eat lunch.
Look at most brands of peanut butter however, and you’ll discover they’re filled with oils, sugar and salt. Most types of jelly and fruit preserves are high in sugar too.
Read labels and look for peanut butter or another type of nut butter with minimal ingredients. I like Smucker’s Natural Peanut Butter or Justin’s. Instead of jelly, mash up fresh raspberries for a delicious, fiber-rich option.
7. Tomato Sauce
Jarred tomato sauce makes for a quick and easy meal but most types are highly processed and loaded with calories, sodium and sugar.
Instead of feeding your kids jarred tomato sauce, make fresh tomato sauce at home with fresh tomatoes or canned tomatoes.
8. Pancake Syrup
There’s nothing better than waking up on Saturday morning and whipping up a batch of pancakes or waffles for your kids. But most brands of pancake syrup are loaded with sugar, high fructose corn syrup and caramel coloring.
Instead, serve real maple syrup and fresh fruit for added fiber.
9. Canned or Boxed Soup
Soup is easy, convenient and seems healthy, especially because it has good for you ingredients like vegetables and beans. Yet most canned or boxed soups are loaded with sodium. The same goes for fresh soups that are available in grocery stores and family restaurants.
When selecting soup, read labels carefully. Your best bet is to make a batch of your own soup in the slow cooker and freeze leftovers for another meal.
10. Salad Dressing
If you can get your child to eat salad, perhaps it’s because of a creamy salad dressing they love.
Most store-bought salad dressings however, are high in sugar, saturated fat, contain preservatives and are made with soybean oil, a man-made, processed oil.
Nix store-bought salad dressings and make your own fresh ones at home with lemon juice, avocado and vinegar.