If you’re like me, you’ll do just about anything you can to get your kids to eat healthfully (well, anything short of force-feeding, that is). As a nutritionist, my clients are shocked when they learn the horrifying truth behind their favorite so-called “health” foods, especially when it comes to products they buy for their kids. Be sure to steer clear of these seven faux “health” foods that are wreaking havoc on your kids’ nutrition.
1. Veggie straws
t Despite the name, there’s very little “veggie” about these straws. The pulverized potato and corn starches that mainly compose these snack straws leave you with virtually no fiber or protein (which you should expect from a vegetable, especially a potato). What you do get: a whopping 60 calories (7 grams) of fat per serving derived from the oil these babies are fried in. Believe it or not, Lay’s Baked Potato Chips have more nutritional merit than these impostors. Check out my complete crackdown on just how bad veggie straws are for you and your kids.
2. MLM “vitamins”
t There are a few multi-level marketing companies out there hawking a variety of pricey supplements to parents of veggie-phobic kids. The ugly truth: Several of these companies provide no “supplement facts” panels whatsoever on their products (“Supplement facts” are different from “nutrition facts” in that they show content for nutrients like iron, zinc, calcium, etc.). One look at the “nutrition facts” panels shows that many of these are little more than glorified sugar pills.
t One note: Juice Plus+ is pretty transparent about the fact their products are not vitamins; one look at their “nutrition facts” panel shows it’s mostly a vitamin C supplement.
t Be mindful about any “whole foods” claims from any product nearly devoid of fiber (as many of these are). Any product that has fiber before processing and doesn’t have it when it comes out isn’t really a whole food anymore.
3. Fruit chips
t Check it out: A Whole Foods package of banana chips contains 130 calories (14 grams) of fat per serving (which is only 1/3 of a cup)! Whaaaa? Many “dried” fruits are not dried but fried, jacking up the fat content. Real dried (dehydrated) fruit will not have that kind of fat content, so make sure to look at the labels.
4. Annie’s Cheddar Bunnies
t Aww, Cheddar Bunnies. They are so cute and non-GMO. They’ve got to be better for our kids than the regular stuff! Wrong. Annie’s Organic Baked Cheddar Bunnies have more fat, less fiber and fewer vitamins than traditional Goldfish crackers.
5. Welch’s Fruit Snacks
t “We put the fruit in fruit snacks!” No, no you don’t. These snacks have absolutely no fiber (which fruit should be a great source of). What they should say is “We put the sugary fruit juice (and supplemental vitamin C) in fruit snacks.”
t Speaking of supplements, these have more vitamin C than some of those “vitamins” we just chatted about… more sugar, but they are a heck of a lot cheaper.
6. Pirate’s Booty
t They’re baked! Gluten free! No trans fat! No artificial flavors or preservatives!
t No nutrition.
t Ever wonder why your kids are hungry again about 20 minutes after eating a bag of this stuff? I’m going to bang the “no fiber” drum one more time. Fiber helps us to feel full, especially in combination with water. The fact that these contain 45 calories from fat (5 grams) but no fiber and and negligible protein means you’re going to be looking for another snack before you can say “arrr.” Instead, offer snacks with a good balance of fat, fiber and protein to keep them full until mealtime.
7. Kid-branded yogurts
t Many parents are mindful of sugar content when choosing a breakfast cereal. But what about those tiny little cups/pouches/tubes of yogurt? One serving of Stonyfield Yo Kids Low Fat Organic Blueberry Blitz Yogurt has 14 grams of sugar. That’s more than the amount of sugar in one serving of Froot Loops (12 grams) or Trix (10 grams).