Walk through the snack aisle at any grocery store or big box store and you’ll find so many different kinds of quick, easy and convenient snacks to throw in your kid’s lunch box or take on a road trip. Many of the snacks might seem healthy but many of them actually aren’t.
That’s because the marketing gurus at food companies are experts at using the right language, packaging and placement to get you—and your kids—to believe their health claims. They call out certain ingredients like whole grains and chia seeds or have health halos like “made with real fruit,” or “low in sugar.”
If you don’t take the time to read labels and decipher the ingredients, it’s easy to buy snacks that have little to no nutritional value.
Here are 5 of the most common types of snacks you should watch out for.
You already know that yogurts that come with M&M’s, cookies or crackers are filled with too much sugar but what you may not realize is that most yogurt brands that look healthy have as much—or more—sugar than a candy bar. You’d be surprised that whether the yogurt is organic, low-fat, or made with real fruit or it’s marketed to kids or not, you might as well serve it for dessert.
Snack bars are big business in the U.S. In fact, in 2016, the market for granola bars was worth 6.56 billion. But it’s not just granola bars that we’re grabbing. There are countless types of breakfast bars, protein bars, energy bars and all-fruit bars.
Most of these bars seem like healthy snacks for kids especially because they have good-for-you ingredients like oatmeal, whole grains, fruits and vegetables and seeds and nuts. But many of them are high in calories and sugar and are more of a meal replacement than a snack.
For quite awhile, I bought That’s it. fruit bars for my kids. They were easy to throw in their lunch boxes or take with us to after-school activities. Although they’re not the worst snack I could feed my kids, they’re high in sugar and low in fiber and protein.
Bars are OK when you’re traveling or in a pinch, but they shouldn’t replace a piece of fruit or cut up vegetables.
Kids love juice boxes and pouches but even if they’re organic, they’re not healthy. Just look at the ingredients label and you’ll see they are made with juice concentrate and have lots of sugar. According to experts, most kids don’t even need juice in their diets if they’re eating healthy to begin with.
If you really want your kids to drink healthy juice, however, then make your own fresh juice at home with mostly vegetables and some fruit.
You might think grabbing a muffin at the coffee shop or a package of mini muffins are healthy, but even if they have fruit, most are high in calories, refined carbohydrates, and sugar and low in protein and fiber.
5. “Veggie” snacks
Veggie sticks or veggie chips seem to be better than regular potato chips but just because they have vegetables, they’re not something your kids should be eating in the first place. Once again, read labels and you’ll discover veggie snacks are made with things like potato starch, potato flour and spinach powder. Or they’re so processed, they’re devoid of all the nutrition you think you’re getting. These types of snacks are also low in protein and fiber and filled with sodium.