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. daisym0m says:

    Red dye and sugar will make your kids hyper. My granddaughter was kept off of both for many years, until she could tolerate them.

  2. roserawson says:

    Why not make your own yogurt? It's really quite simple, and requires a minimum of equipment (a 4 qt Crockpot) and ingredients (whole or 2% milk, 1/2 cup yogurt), a clock, and a little time. And it tastes much better than most of the yogurts available in your typical store. You can add your own fruit to it when you eat it. Very healthy! :)

  3. someonewithalife says:

    You are all retarded and should get a life…

  4. MrDJ says:

    I think one of the points about HFCS, even if it is not REALLY BAD for you, is that when people read labels and don't see "SUGAR" they are happy, but all the while not realizing that if it has HFCS it is not any better for you (if not actually worse). So if research has shown it is "not worse" than sugar, then OK. But it's also "not better", especially if your trying to reduce your intake of sugar.

  5. @Snack_Girl_ says:

    Great post! There are SO many better choices than these for your kids. My favorite website for healthy snack ideas is http://www.snack-girl.com/

  6. nzawacki says:

    Your not seriouse are you? HFCS is not found in nature. Sugar is. Granted sugar is not the best thing for you, but your body can identify it and knows how to process it. When HFCS is added to food, it creates a long shelf life, a preservative. If it can live on the shelf at the store for 6 – 9 months, how long do you think it takes to process thru your body?

  7. Kristin says:

    Sure, sugar is sugar. What bothers me is the chemical processing that it goes through.

  8. Doris says:

    want to make my own yogurt? how? blog says crock pot, milk and 1/2 c yogurt. but what all do I do? thanks

  9. Kim says:

    I am so wondering why people lived to be 100 years ago and we can't make 70 and eat like everything is poison? Do U REALLY think it's the food people????

  10. Donna says:

    So true! We don't buy any of the "kid-friendly" yogurts but stick to Greek yogurts and natural varieties. I also make my own granola and read the labels (like a crazy person!) on any pre-packaged snacks I buy. Our pediatric dentist also said "NO FRUIT SNACKS!" Thankfully, our kiddo loves fresh fruit, so we don't have the "sugary treat" battle… yet. :)

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