When it comes to dealing with picky eaters and raising your kids to be healthy eaters, offering a variety of foods is key, including treats.
My kids eat healthy foods at every meal and snack during the week but on the weekends, they’re allowed to have a hot chocolate, cookies or a special dessert. I think moderation is important but indulgence is OK too.
Although the following foods may not seem like the worst foods your kids could eat, most lack nutrition, are high in sugar, made with unrecognizable ingredients or so highly processed they’re unrecognizable. These 8 foods you should never feed your kids but if you must, reserve them for a kid’s birthday party, a holiday or vacation.
1. Lunch Meats
Deli meats (and cheeses) are an easy and convenient choice for your kid’s lunch box.
Yet lunch meats are processed, full of sodium and saturated fat and made with artificial colors. Many are also high in nitrites and nitrates, preservatives that may be carcinogenic and which the Environmental Working Group ranks among the “dirty dozen” of the 10,000 harmful food additives.
Instead of buying lunch meats, roast organic chicken or turkey breast at home and slice it thin for lunches all week long.
2. Fruit Snacks
Gummy bear-like fruit snacks, fruit leather and fruit rolls may seem like a good choice for kids but they lack nutrition and are high in sugar. Some brands claim to be a good source of vitamins but read the ingredient label and you’ll discover that they’re made with ingredients like fruit puree, corn syrup, sugar and artificial flavors and colors.
3. Hot dogs
Hot dogs at a picnic or summer party are synonymous with childhood, but hot dogs are hands down one of the foods you should never feed your kids. Hot dogs are processed, contain nitrates and are high in saturated fat. Take a look at how hot dogs are really made, and you’ll probably swear them off forever.
Kids love to drink juice and juice boxes are convenient, but juice lacks fiber and is high in calories and concentrated sugars. Drinking too much juice can lead to cavities, weight gain and in babies and toddlers, diarrhea.
Surprisingly the claim “fruit juice from concentrate” is actually added sugar and even if the label says “100 percent fruit juice,” it can still be made with fruit juice from concentrate.
5. Granola Bars
They seem like a healthy, wholesome snack especially if they’re made with oats, nuts and fruit, but most granola bars lack protein and fiber and are filled with sugar so kids will ask for them.
When you feed your kids convenience snacks like granola bars, they lose the opportunity during the day to eat fruits and vegetables.
Bars are an OK option when you’re traveling or at the park, but make sure to read labels. Look for bars that are made with real ingredients, are low in sugar and contain minimal ingredients. If your kid doesn’t have a nut allergy, RXBAR Kids are a nutritious, delicious option.
6. Frozen kids’ foods
Chicken nuggets, fish sticks, pizza and other frozen kids meals are heavily marketed to kids who spot their favorite characters on the package and parents who have picky eaters or need an easy and fast way to get dinner on the table.
Yet frozen kids foods are highly processed and high in calories, saturated fat, sodium, sugar and preservatives that cater to kid’s taste preferences.
Feeding your kids from the package doesn’t teach them how to plan, shop, cook and enjoy real food.
7. Sugary and sugar-sweetened beverages
According to a report by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), between 2011 and 2014 more than 62 percent of kids consumed a sugar-sweetened beverage on any given day.
Soda, sugar-sweetened sports and energy drinks, fruit-flavored drinks and sweetened coffee and teas have been linked to cavities, weight gain, high cholesterol and type-2 diabetes.
8. “Healthy” cereals
You already know that sugary kids cereals that are colorful or contain marshmallows are some of the worst foods you can feed your kids, but many so-called “healthy” cereals that claim to have whole grains, real fruit, nuts and seeds or are high in protein are high in sugar too and rarely the healthy option they claim to be.