According to the CDC, more than one third of children and adolescents are overweight. What makes this statistic alarming is the strong correlation among obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease—the number one cause of death for men and women in America. With the numbers of heavy Americans continuing to climb, some experts believe part of the problem is what kids are eating.
Nutrition expert Eileen Behan explains the crux of the issue.
“The problem that I see with American children is that we’re out of balance with our food groups…most children are eating very large amounts of the bread, grain, starch group. They dominate and they push out the foods that actually help with children feeling full, which is fruits, vegetables, low fat dairy foods, and lean protein foods.” Behan believes that because parents get their information from food companies trying to sell a product, the truth about what’s healthy becomes confusing.
Here are 10 prime examples of foods that even the healthiest parents think are good for their children, what’s wrong with them, and how to fix or replace them:
1. Fruit Drinks
Despite what labels claim, most fruit juices barely have any actual fruit juice. The trace amounts of juice that do exist are overpowered by added sugar and “flavor packs” that make up for flavor qualities lost during manufacturing. While they may contain small quantities of vitamins and antioxidants, they lack fiber and hardly compare to whole fruits.
The Fix: Flavor water with fresh fruit like strawberries, or invest in a juicer to make fruit juices at home with fresh whole fruits.
2. Breakfast Bars
Breakfast bars typically contain high fructose corn syrup, enriched flour, high levels of saturated fat, tons of sugar, artificial ingredients, partially hydrogenated oils and preservatives, all of which are bad for your child’s diet.
The Fix: Give your child an apple and peanut butter or make your own breakfast bars with whole grain oats or nuts, plain dried fruit and honey instead of sugar.
3. Low-Fat Nut Butters
Peanut butter contains healthy, monounsaturated fats that are good for your child’s diet. By choosing low fat peanut butter, you are eliminating healthy fats and exchanging them for sugar and saturated or trans fat—a double no-no.
The Fix: Look for all-natural nut butters with no added sugar or salt.
4. Iceberg Lettuce
Iceberg lettuce has almost no nutritional value while darker greens like spinach, kale, and romaine are rich with vitamins and nutrients.
The Fix: Incorporate more dark leafy greens into your child’s salad and stay away from creamy dressings that quickly crank up the fat and calorie count. Consider shredded real cheese as a condiment or flavoring instead of a main salad ingredient.
5. Fruit Snacks
Fruit snacks boast 100% of your child’s daily dose of vitamin C and often advertise real fruit contents, but in actuality, the amount of added sugars, artificial flavors and preservatives defeat those benefits, hands-down. They also lack the robust vitamins and fiber provided by real whole fruits.
The Fix: It doesn’t get any better than real fruit. Try frozen or naturally sweet dried fruits (but watch for added sugar) for a quick snack.