Many children aren’t getting the nutrients they need out of the foods they are eating. Childhood obesity is on the rise and most signs are pointing to the next generation having a life expectancy that is shorter than their parents’. With this being said, here are some healthier options for your children.
Chicken Nuggets/tenders: These are high in high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), sodium, fried in hydrogenated oils (the bad tras-nfatty stuff), and dipped in sugary HFCS sauces. Often, they do not even have chicken listed as the first ingredient. Instead: Grill a chicken breast and cut into dipping sized pieces. Make a sauce free of HFCS. HFCS free – Ketchup, marinara sauce, mustard, or yogurt are good options.
Sugary Cereal: Contain large amounts of sugar, grams of fat, and hundreds of empty calories. Instead: Read the labels. Find a cereal that is low in sugar, high in fiber and whole grains. Don’t forget, “wheat” isn’t the same as “whole wheat”. You will also want to avoid cereals (including some granolas) with hydrogenated oils, artificial colors, or chemical preservatives. To spice it up, add raisins, sliced bananas or berries.
Lunch Meat and Hot Dogs: These foods are full of potentially carcinogenic nitrates and nitrites, sodium, saturated fat, and artificial colors and fillers. Instead: Use unprocessed meats like lean turkey breast, chicken, tuna, or roast beef. Use whole wheat bread for sandwiches.
Juice and Juice Flavored Drinks: Too much juice can lead to tooth decay and obesity, among other problems. Juice doesn’t have the fiber of whole fruit and provides mostly calories from sugar and carbohydrates. Many times, juices are laced with HFCS and artificial colors. Instead: Water is the best option. Set the example by drinking water yourself. Have your kids get used to carrying a small water bottle made from reusable hard plastic or stainless steel. If they’re very water adverse, try water with a splash of juice or lemons, limes, or oranges.
French Fries: Fries are high in calories, fat and sodium. They offer virtually none of the nutrients found in other vegetables. They are often fried in trans fatty oils. Instead: Try getting your kids to eat other types of vegetables. If they insist on eating potatoes, try these options. Use a scooped out potato and fill it with low fat chili and a little cheese. Another option is making baked fries. Use slices of potatoes and a light brushing of coconut oil.
Potato Chips, Cheetos, Doritos, etc: These are full of saturated fat and way more sodium than any child or adult should eat. Also, watch out for innocent seeming baked and low fat chips that contain olestra or other fake chemicals and fats.
Instead: Cut up veggies are the best snack option for a crunchy snack. Kids can also eat air popped popcorn made with coconut oil. Or, try making your own trail mix with the kids. Avoid marshmallows and light chocolate in the trail mix.
Fruit Leather: These contain trace amounts of fruit but lots of sugar or HFCS and artificial colors. Real fruit is in the produce section, not the candy aisle. Instead: Real fruit is best. If they won’t eat plain fruit, try this. Freeze grapes or bananas. You can also give them raisins, dried apricots, apples, peaches, will also give the chewy, leathery texture with less sugar.
Doughnuts: These are full of trans fats and sugar. Toaster pastries, muffins, and cinnamon buns aren’t any better. Instead: A slice of whole wheat toast with peanut butter isn’t going to get as many fans as doughnuts but, at some point, you have to stand firm. Don’t eat them. Period.
Pizza: Most pizzas contain processed meats like pepperoni and sausage, which add fats and nitrates/nitrites. The overabundance of cheese also adds more calories and fat than a child needs. Instead: Try making your own pizza. Use whole wheat crust . Use a HFCS free sauce, and add healthy ingredients like diced chicken, and vegetables.