6 “Healthy” Kids Snacks That Aren’t

by in Back to School, Healthy Tips, September 1, 2010

fruit snacks

Feeding your kids can get confusing. Between pushy food marketing and bewildering labels, it’s no wonder that most folks are misled as to which kids snacks are really healthy. Here’s the real deal on what you’ve been buying.

#1: Yogurt
Cows don’t make purple, hot pink or even blue-colored yogurt — that’s what I tell my kids every time we hit the dairy aisle. Those neon yogurts are loaded with sugar (including the infamous high fructose corn syrup) and lots of additives and preservatives that don’t do any favors to little bodies. Give kids a punch of calcium and protein from healthier dairy products. If your kids are pining for yogurt, here are some healthier options:

#2: Granola Bars
Although a basic granola bar includes a combo of nuts, oats, seeds and sometimes dried fruit (all healthy stuff), many packaged varieties add in pieces of chocolate or candy or loads of sugar and fat. Check out our favorite snack bar brands or make your own granola mix.

#3: Meat & Cracker Combos
While they’re convenient kid-favorites, most packaged lunch combos come with a side dish of excess salt and fat. With a laundry list of ingredients and preservatives, you’re better off packing your own. On your next trip to the market, pick up a package of whole-wheat or rye crackers, Swiss or cheddar cheese and  low-sodium turkey or ham (or leftover turkey or chicken) and pack in compartment-type Tupperware.  You’ll save money and control the ingredients.

#4: Veggie Chips
Once fried and processed, even veggies aren’t that healthy. Heat and various processing techniques destroy many of the vitamins, which are not typically replaced once they’re made into chips. Pack a serving (about 15 chips) for a once-in-a-while snack, but don’t substitute them for actual vegetables.

#5: Fruit Snacks
Fruit snacks might have the word “fruit” in the title, but don’t be fooled. Most of these chewy snacks contain corn syrup and “natural” and artificial flavors. If you carefully examine the list of ingredients, you’ll also find vitamin C added back as it’s destroyed during the processing of the snack. Nothing can replace a juicy, fresh fruit, but if you want to serve it up as an occasional treat make sure to brush those little teeth right away.

#6: Juice Drinks
Lemonade, iced tea and other such juice drinks are loaded with calories, sugar and not much else. Look for 100 percent fruit juice and limit kids to a maximum of 4 fluid ounces per day. Don’t be fooled with the claim that it’s excellent source of vitamin C — you can get just as much (if not more) from good old fresh fruits like kiwi, citrus fruit and strawberries and even a few veggies like bell peppers, tomatoes and potatoes.

Toby Amidor, MS, RD, CDN, is a registered dietitian and consultant who specializes in food safety and culinary nutrition. See Toby’s full bio »

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Comments (33)

  1. Sophie says:

    My family works on a *very* tight budget, so we can't afford to buy separate foods for the kids and for the adults. I send the kids off to school with fun snack packs by plopping 1/3 cup of vanilla yogurt or banana pudding on top of some sliced fruit and then mix thoroughly with a few drops of food coloring. I use 1/2 cup containers bought in 5-packs from the dollar store. The kids love the fun colors and flavor combinations and I love being able to control both the nutrition value and the portion size. The hubby's been known to take them to work too.

  2. sam says:

    MODERATION. even sugar isn't bad for you; but in SMALL AMOUNTS. businesses are not about keeping you healthy, they're about making money. think about that.

  3. Stacey says:

    All I have to say is read The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan…it may be quite a surprise and a much needed eye opener….unfortunately too many people rely on what they think they know and it will never stop

  4. Kim says:

    Logically, cane sugar and HFCS are equally bad… or not so bad… I think the cancer link is a lot of hype, but the bottom line is, sugar IN ANY FORM in excess is bad for us. Sugar creates cravings for more sugar (does it not????). Use ANY sugar in moderation and to reduce cravings, choose sweeteners lower on the glycemic index… Agave Nectar anyone?

  5. There is obviously a lot to know about this. I think you made some good points in Features also.Keep working ,great job!

  6. I am starting a Virtual assistant business and would like to start building a website that can expand with me. I am on a very limited income so I need to start it for next to no money upfront. Please help..

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  8. Anonymous says:

    I have also read that a study has linked it to certain types of cancer as a long term effect.
    Any type of sweetener should be taken in moderation and highly processed sweeteners should be avoided.

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