The kids are hungry; the day was hectic; you haven’t planned dinner. Do you head for the drive-through? Call for pizza delivery? Open a few cans of pasta in sauce?
Why not? All moms and dads have resorted to one of the above options when time is crunched. And yet, none of them—or any number of other choices—does your kids any favors.
Parents need to pay attention to what they offer their little ones for meals and snacks. Eating habits developed early on insure good health as the kids grow and also when they reach adulthood. Let’s face it: Everyone takes a shortcut now and again, that’s life, but the more attention we give to what our kids eat, the better off they will be.
Following are five kinds of edibles that should be on your “never-in-our-house” list. A few might surprise you. And getting rid of these, will save you money, too.
Fruit Juice and Fruit Snacks: Fruit is healthful, right? Yes, and the best way to consume fruit is whole, not as a juice and certainly not as a sticky, sugary, essentially fruit-less snack food. Pure fruit juice is full of sugar and so if your kids want it, cut it with water.
Cold Cuts and Hot Dogs: Forget about bologna or salami sandwiches. Hot dogs are not a good idea. Why? Processed meats (such as these packaged “lunch” meats) and franks are full of sodium as well as nitrates and nitrites. Nitrates and nitrites are preservatives that have been linked to colon cancer, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease.
Most Breakfast Cereals and Granola Bars: A bowl of cereal with low-fat milk is only a good breakfast if the cereal is not packed with sugar, artificial coloring, and other processed things. Look for cereals with at least three grams of fiber and no more than 10 grams of sugar. And when it comes to granola bars, make sure they aren’t “enhanced” with chocolate chips, marshmallows, honey and other sugary items (and most are!).
Storebought Cookies and Cakes: Your kids may beg for cookies and cakes with colorful and enticing packaging, but as much as you may be tempted, stay away! These baked goods not only are packed with sugar and bleached white flour, but frequently contain trans fats. You want to limit sugar intake, and you surely don’t want your kids consuming super-unhealthful trans fats.
Soda: Limit soda of all kinds—better yet, ban it. A twelve-ounce can of cola contains ten teaspoons of sugar. Yes. Ten! That’s three tablespoons plus an extra teaspoon for good measure. Do you really want your kids drinking sugar?
Once you purge these and other questionable foods (such as canned pastas and fruit packed in syrup) from your kitchen and your kids’ lives, replace them with good things. These include yogurt, whole fruits, raw veggies such as carrots and bell peppers, and sandwich fillers such as sliced chicken and turkey, natural cheese, hummus, and grilled vegetables.
When you buy natural foods and bypass processed ones, you save money as well as health. Win win!
And every now and then bake a batch of cookies or cupcakes. From scratch so that you know what goes in them. Your kids will be grateful!