When it comes to healthy foods for kids and healthy eating habits, there’s a wealth of information and nearly as many kids nutrition myths that are leading parents and their kids down a dangerous path.
Pediatricians who don’t have nutrition degrees and well-meaning moms often dole out their tips, tricks and sneaky tactics for dealing with picky eaters and advice on healthy foods to feed kids.
Although some of this insight can work in the short term, over time these kids’ nutrition myths can actually hurt your child’s health.
Here are 7.
Myth #1: Kids Don’t Like Foods They Refuse To Eat
If your kid turns his nose up at a new food you introduce once or even several times, it doesn’t mean he doesn’t like it or he never will.
Studies show it takes 10 to 15 times of serving a new food for kids to be willing to eat it. The key however, is not to serve an entire portion—a pea sized amount will do.
Also, instead of serving the food the same way over and over again, try a different cooking method (roasted vs. steamed), solo or mixed in (but not hidden!) with another food or alongside a familiar food your kid enjoys eating.
Myth #2 : Picky Eating Is a Phase
Just as using a pacifier, whining and meltdowns are behaviors your kids will grow out of, chances are, picky eating isn’t usually one of them.
Although it’s possible that kids can be more flexible and willing to try new foods as they get older, when we cater to those preferences and don’t open their minds to new, healthy foods, chances are that inflexibility will continue into adolescence and adulthood.
In fact, an August 2017 study in the journal Eating Behaviors suggests kids who are selective eaters when they’re young continue that way through their 20’s.
The foods you feed your kids and the healthy habits you introduce now will shape their food likes and dislikes and their relationship with food throughout their lives.
Myth #3: Health claims mean food is healthy
Food labels that claim a food is natural, organic, gluten-free, non-GMO, made with whole grains, made without preservatives or additives or have no added sugars don’t necessarily mean the food is any better than their conventional counterparts.
Foods that are in a box, bag or container are still processed and never as nutritious as whole foods. Organic boxed macaroni and cheese may have better ingredients for example, but powdered cheese and white refined pasta isn’t a wise choice to begin with.
Myth #4: Kids deserve treats everyday
Cotton candy, ice cream and candy are what childhood memories are made of but that doesn’t mean these foods are what kids should be eating all the time.
While adults often restrict certain foods, cut back on sugar or eat more whole grains, they mistakenly think that because kids are still young, they can have more freedom.
Although treats should be a part of a kids diet (and an adult’s), if you want your kids to be healthy eaters, they should be eating healthy most of the time and have treats in moderation.
Myth #5: Store-bought baby food is just as good as homemade
Although many of the store-bought brands don’t have preservatives or additives, open them up and you’ll smell—and taste—the difference.
In 2015, Good Morning America found that water was the most predominant ingredient in Plum Organics’ baby food and other ingredients like fruits, vegetables and meat, were in smaller quantities. Store-bought baby food may also contain less than 20 percent of the recommended levels of many minerals and micronutrients, a 2012 study out of the U.K found.
There are some exceptions, however. Once Upon A Farm uses fresh, whole, organic foods to make their cold-pressed, refrigerated baby food. There are also companies that deliver homemade baby food to your door.
When you make homemade baby food, you know exactly what’s going into your baby’s meals and you can choose local, organic and add your own spices.
I won’t lie—making homemade baby food takes time but it’s also one of the best things you can do for your baby. You can choose food that is organic, local, from the farmer’s market and in-season so it’s fresher and more affordable.
Myth #6: Kids Should Drink Juice
Fruit juice has been touted as a healthy food for kids, especially those that are organic or not from concentrate. Although juice has certain vitamins and nutrients and can count as a serving of fruit—a good thing if your kid is a picky eater—in reality, fruit juice is just concentrated sugar. Fruit juice also lacks fiber, something all kids need whether they’re constipated or not.
If you want your kids to drink juice, make fresh green vegetable juice with some fruit at home instead. Otherwise, serve fruit juice occasionally—at a birthday party or holiday.
Myth #7: Cereal is a healthy breakfast for kids
Cereal is a quick and easy breakfast but it’s not the best option. There are so many cereals that seem healthy because they’re high in fiber or have whole-grains but many are sneaky sources of sugar in your kid’s diet. Also, if your kids eat more than one serving, the sugar they get can be double or triple the serving size.
Instead of serving cereal for breakfast, consider oatmeal or overnight oats with fresh fruit and nuts, eggs and vegetables or avocado toast.