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Feeding kids: Are you falling for misleading food labels?

Maria Mora is a freelance writer and single mom fueled by coffee, questionable time management skills, toaster oven waffles and the color orange. She lives in Florida with her two young sons. If you see her on Twitter, tell her to stop p...

When natural doesn’t mean healthy

Before you offer your child a breakfast bar or sports drink, consider these facts about “healthy” foods and snacks for kids. Learn how to avoid common pitfalls when it comes to misleading labels and false marketing.
Mom reading food label

As you shop for your family, be wary of misleading food labels and health claims. Not every food label health claim is regulated. Learn how to avoid foods that aren’t as healthy as they first appear.

Sugar-free isn’t always a good thing

Read carefully when you see yogurt, jelly or other sweet foods labeled as sugar-free. These items may be sweetened with artificial sweeteners, which aren’t recommended for kids. Sugar-free foods may also contain high calories, so don’t assume that sugar-free means healthy. Ask your child’s pediatrician how much sugar your child should be consuming in a single day and try to use that as a guide.

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”All natural” does not mean organic

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration doesn’t have a definition for ”all natural.” In most cases, it only means that food doesn’t contain artificial flavors, colors or synthetic substances. This leaves a lot of room for interpretation. The ”all-natural” meat you have your eyes on may contain preservatives and other additives. ”All-natural” foods can also contain high-fructose corn syrup.

No sugar added doesn’t mean much

Just because a product has no sugar added doesn’t mean it has no sugar or that it’s a healthy food item. Learn how to read labels carefully to look at the actual sugar amounts, as well as calories and carbohydrates. A naturally sweet food that had no sugar added may contain more sugar than you’d prefer to feed your kids in one serving.

”Light” might not mean what you think

When a food is labeled as light, look closer. Light isn’t a regulated term, and it might not mean a food is any healthier than its alternative. Comparison shop while you’re at the store, keeping in mind what you want your food to do for you. If you’re counting calories or balancing your child’s diet, look past the marketing on the labels and go straight for the nutritional label.

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You can become a cunning consumer

Food manufacturers are aware of the public’s desire to buy healthier food, but that doesn’t mean they have your best interests in mind. What do you do when you’re bombarded with health claims at the grocery store? Become a nutrition detective. Don’t assume claims related to digestive health, zero- or low-fat, whole-grain ingredients or all-natural ingredients mean food is better for your family. Buy whole foods when you can and always look closely before you buy.

More health tips for kids

Signs of food allergies in kids
How to prevent common childhood sports injuries
Children and good nutrition: Start early

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