When you say the phrase, “kid foods,” everyone knows what you are talking about. These are the go-to foods that parents feed their kids because they know their kids will eat these foods and they’re quick and easy to make. Now this is the pot calling the kettle black (I have fed my kids just about all of these foods at one time or another). This article is a gentle reminder (because I personally need lots of reminders), to try and make better food choices for our kids.
UNHEALTHY FOODS (WITH BETTER SUBSTITUTES)
- Chicken nuggets: We are raised to believe that chicken is good for us, and it generally is. When we bread it, fry it, and process it, the chicken largely loses its nutritional value. Chicken nuggets are full of saturated fats and lots of sodium.
- Better option: Grilled or baked chicken.
- Ramen Noodles: Have you ever looked at the nutritional label of Ramen Noodles? I’m always surprised how little of anything they have (just some calories and lots of sodium).
- Better option: Whole grain noodles with a hearty marinara sauce.
- Mac N Cheese: This is another food with little to no nutritional value (see Ramen Noodles above). I hate to admit my 3 year old is addicted to this stuff. I have had to resort to simply not buying it to avoid her begging to have it for every meal.
- Better option: Whole grain noodles with a hearty marinara sauce (see #2 above)
- Hot dogs: These tasty little tubes of meat are loaded with saturated fats and sodium.
- Better option: Grilled chicken strips.
- French Fries: Potatoes are not necessarily bad for you. When you fry them in saturated fats and pour salt all over them (I’ll admit, they are delicious that way), they suddenly become terrible for you.
- Better option: Homemade baked French fries (simply slice potatoes into matchsticks, season, and bake).
- Donuts: Anything that is fried isn’t good for you (saturated fats are truly terrible health-wise), not to mention all the sugar.
- Better option: A small toasted bagel.
- Hamburgers: Fast food hamburgers are not healthy. Add some cheese and large glob of mayonnaise and you have more calories and grams of fat in one meal than most people should eat all day.
- Better option: Homemade grilled hamburgers (using a really lean ground beef for the patties) and top with lettuce and tomatoes (skip the mayo).
- Juice: While some juice may have vitamin C or other vitamins, juice is largely just fruit sugars in water. As not to be misquoted, I will recommend juice regularly for young kids who suffer from constipation, but the average kid doesn’t need juice. Also, (plug for the dentists out there) bathing your kid’s teeth in sugary liquid contributes to cavities.
- Better option: Water (no calories, keeps you hydrated, good for your teeth).
- Soda/Energy Drinks: Many energy drinks have caffeine as the ingredient that gives you the “energy.” Caffeine is addictive and can cause increased heart rate as well as rebound headaches. It can also interfere with kid’s sleep (this is why people drink coffee to keep them awake). Additionally, most sodas and energy drinks have lots of sugar.
- Better option: Water
- Sugar Cereals: I learned in medical school that the average American child gets 1/3 of their necessary vitamins from sugar cereals each day. This is because most cereals are vitamin fortified. While the vitamins are good, there are better ways to get those vitamins and lots of healthier breakfast options. If you’re pressed for time, cold cereal can be a good, quick option. Just try and choose one that doesn’t have “sugar” or “high fructose corn syrup” as one of the first 3 ingredients.
- Better option: Whole grain cereal or oatmeal.
I live in the real world. I have four small children who are involved in demanding activities (I’m quickly typing this out as I run to pick up my kid from piano lessons), and a demanding work life. I get it. I think with a little forethought and planning, we can all make a few small, “better” choices nutritionally that add up to a some real change. Good luck!