Go to any grocery store and you’ll find dozens of store shelves lined with so-called “healthy” kids foods that you think are good choices for your family.
Maybe they have whole grains, are made with real fruit, are high in fiber, gluten-free and have no high-fructose corn syrup.
The healthwashing practices companies use are deceiving and can make you feel really good about buying their products for your kids.
After all, they’re not the potato chips, cookies and candy you already know to avoid.
Yet there are some foods that you’re probably feeding your kids every day, which although they may seem like good choices, are actually desserts and treats in disguise—and something kids should eat occasionally. Here are 5.
1. Dried fruit
My daughter loves to eat raisins and I used to be OK with her eating a handful with oatmeal or mixed with sunflower seeds since they’re a good source of fiber, iron (she was anemic), and calcium.
After a while however, I found that she was asking for them all the time and eating them like candy—and I can’t blame her.
Raisins, and other types of dried fruit, are really high in sugar. One small box of raisins has 25 grams of sugar—as much as a Hershey’s chocolate bar!
Dried fruit has more nutrition than candy of course, but it’s better to serve fresh, whole fruit whenever possible and reserve dried fruit as a treat.
2. Trail mix
Trail mix has traditionally be seen as a healthy food, but most types are packed with salty nuts, seeds, dried fruit (see #1), “yogurt-” covered raisins, chocolate chips and M&Ms.
Trail mix is also high in calories: one ounce has 129 calories—it doesn’t sound like a lot, but because of its salty and sweet combination, it’s easy to keep snacking.
Nuts and seeds can be a healthy snack especially because they have the healthy fats kids need in their diets.
But if you want to serve trail mix, make your own because you get to control the ingredients and the portion size.
Cereal is an easy option for breakfast especially when you’re rushed and running out the door in the morning—which if you’re like me, that’s every morning.
Yet most cereals are low in protein and fiber, filled with artificial ingredients and loaded with sugar.
In fact, a May 2014 study by the Environmental Working Group found kids who eat a bowl of cereal every day for a year get a whopping 10 pounds of sugar in their diets.
And I’m not only talking about the cereals that have bright, artificial colors, marshmallows and favorite characters on their boxes—so called “healthy cereals” aren’t always the best option either.
Cereal can be an OK breakfast option, but it’s probably best to serve it every once in a while, or as dessert.
Instead, serve eggs, oatmeal and even leftovers, which have the nutrition your kids need to stay focused until lunch.
4. Goldfish crackers
When I ask my kids what their classmates bring for snack time, most of them bring processed, packaged foods.
One of the most popular of course, are Pepperidge Farm’s Goldfish crackers. Suffice to say, most parents have packed them in their kid’s lunch box or served them as after-school snacks—my daughter even gets them at church.
In fact, a 2018 survey found 2.63 million people ate 8 or more bags of Goldfish within the last 30 days!
Kids love the taste, but Pepperidge Farm also does a great job of marketing them as healthy. Some of their health claims include:
- Baked with real cheese
- No artificial flavors or preservatives.
- Colors sourced from real plants.
True, they have varieties made with whole grains and organic wheat, but Goldfish can’t compare to serving up fresh, whole foods like fruits and vegetables.
If you want to take a deep dive into why these snacks aren’t something you should be feeding your kid everyday, I encourage you to read Megan Telpner’s very comprehensive blog post, Why Golfish Crackers Don’t Belong in A Lunch Box.
5. Pre-made smoothies
Smoothies are often seen as the quintessential health food, especially because they’re made with good-for-you-ingredients like almond milk, yogurt, chia seeds, and fruit.
Yet take a look at most bottled or restaurant smoothies—yes, green smoothies too—and you’ll discover most are filled with sugar thanks to ingredients like fruit juice, honey, raw sugar and loads of fresh fruit.
Sure, fresh fruit has natural sugars, but sugar is sugar.
Take Smoothie King’s Apple Kiwi Bunga, one of their kids’ blends, for example. It sounds really healthy—it has kale—but with apple juice and an “apple juice blend,” this smoothie weighs in at 30 grams of sugar.
Store bought yogurt smoothies aren’t the best option either.
Stonyfield Organics’ low-fat strawberry banana smoothie is made with organic strawberry juice from concentrate. And the second ingredient? Cane sugar.
With 15 grams of sugar per serving, it’s not the worst smoothie you could feed your kid, but it’s better as a treat.