Kids seem like they are always hungry throughout the day, so providing them with snacks is the best way to satiate them. Going for the easy choices can save you on much time, but they’re not always the healthiest. Whether you’re squeezing in dinner before soccer practice, packing lunches before sunup, or just coaxing a picky eater to put something in her belly, it’s often much easier to give kids quick, convenient, and often unhealthy foods rather than nutritious meals.
It doesn’t help that sugary cereals, fruit snacks, and soda are the items that youngsters usually love. It’s nearly impossible to deprive your kids of occasional treats, but some treats should be limited to the fullest extent possible. In addition to some of these foods being full of unhealthy ingredients, they may also contain ingredients that can hinder a child’s developing systems.
News reports have started looking into some of the favorite foods we enjoy giving to our children and discovering that they’re even worse for them than we thought. The next time you go to the grocery store, you may want to stay away from these 40 popular foods you shouldn’t be giving your children until a certain age — or at all!
Before the age of two, a child should not have any honey. That’s because it contains bacteria that result in botulism, a severe form of food poisoning. So how are we able to eat it as adults? As humans grow, they create developed immune systems capable of handling these bacteria in small amounts. On the other hand, children are not so fortunate and can become very sick if they ingest even the smallest amount of honey. Even though it is a natural sweetener, you want to keep it away from very young children. Besides, honey and peanut butter are often choking hazards for children under two. Once old enough to have honey in small amounts, there can be many benefits, including vitamins B and C, antioxidants, and may also act as a cough suppressant. With that said, raw honey that hasn’t been filtered or processed in any way is likely to provide the most benefits.
Pop, soda, coke, whatever you call these carbonated beverages, they are not healthy. They are terrible for us as adults, and it is even worse for children. A single 20-ounce bottle of soda has 60 grams of sugar, which is way too much for a child to have. This much sugar daily has been shown to increase the risk of obesity, Type 2 diabetes, and aggression in children. Because children are growing so rapidly, they need better sources of calories and nutrients. Soda pop is pure sugar with no nutrients to speak of, so they’re wasting their time drinking it. Stick to the sparkling water; kids will enjoy the fizzy bubbles and fruity flavor without all of the extra sugar. It is more beneficial that children understand that pop is not healthy at a young age. Too much sugar from pop or soda can lead to teeth issues and impact their bodies’ ability to breakdown all the unnecessary sugar.
Don’t think these little juice boxes are any better than soda, however. They have just as much sugar, and since they might drink more than one of these a day, they’re getting a lot more sugar than they need. Many parents resort to these because they are loaded with vitamin C, which they think balances everything. However, there are better sources of it, such as bite-sized chunks of actual fruit that contain fiber. Apple juices tend to be the most common juice among children. Parents often believe it is healthier than other liquids, but apple juice contains a large amount of fructose. Instead of grabbing these convenient packs just because they say juice is a no-no. Instead, mix some fruit in a blender and use a strainer to get rid of the pulp. The one thing that many of these packaged fruit juices lack is real fruit juice. The packaging can be misleading and do more harm than good.
37. Just because boxed macaroni and cheese is a popular item for kids doesn’t mean it is healthy.
We’ve all had this as a kid at some point because it’s so easy to make, and children seem to love it. It is fast, easy, and affordable, which every parent needs once in a while. However, you may want to rethink what you’re giving them for dinner. Besides being highly processed and devoid of nutrients, boxed mac and cheese is filled with so much sodium and preservatives that it can lead to children craving even more salt. You would be better off making this from scratch with whole wheat pasta and real cheese. By showing your kids that real food doesn’t have to come from a box, they will be more interested in eating.
36. Sports drinks are not the best drink choice for growing children.
Electrolytes are usually a good thing, as they give you energy and help you to stay hydrated. However, they are not as great as an everyday drink, especially for children. They do not have electrolytes in such high concentrations, plus they still have a great deal of sugar. Even if you have kids who are active in sports, there are better alternatives for replacing those electrolytes, such as a real piece of fruit and some refreshing water. High-quality H2O might seem tedious, but it gets the job done every single time. Save these for when your kid is sick and can’t keep any food down. If it’s too hot out or if your child has been playing for an extended period, sliced oranges are more beneficial to replace lost vitamins and minerals.
35. Fruit snacks are a trendy item among children, but they are a big no-no.
You probably won’t give these fruit snacks to your baby, but as soon as your child can eat table food, you will fall victim to these little squishes. Heck, you might even enjoy munching on these as an adult. However, these seemingly-harmless little gummies contain nothing but pure sugar. Don’t buy the hype that they’re made from real juice and are fortified with vitamins and minerals; that’s just a selling point to get you to buy them. Treat these more like candy than a late afternoon snack. If you want a better alternative, get dried fruit at the grocery store or make your own at home if you have a dehydrator. Your kids won’t get any of that gummy crap stuck in their teeth, either.
34. Canned tuna is not the healthiest option for children.
Fish is an excellent source of low-fat protein, healthy fats that kids need, and necessary vitamins and minerals, so it is helpful to get hooked on it at an early age. However, it would help if you looked at the types of fish you are getting because they can have high mercury content. Avoid canned fish such as albacore tuna, swordfish, and king mackerel, as these are the ones that tend to have the highest mercury content. These ingredients can affect the nervous system of young children, which can lead to irreversible damage. Instead, look for healthier fresh fish options and incorporate those into their daily meals. Canned fish can be full of ingredients that do not have beneficial nutritional value to developing children’s bodies.
Adults chew gum for various reasons, from trying to quit smoking to fixing bad breath. However, you should probably avoid gum, giving kids gum altogether because it’s a choking hazard. However, even when children are old enough to learn how it works, you still shouldn’t give it to them. Gum is terrible because chewing stimulates the production of saliva, which signals the stomach that food is coming. In turn, chewing gum makes the digestive system very confused. Also, the inclusion of xylitol in newer brands of chewing gum can lead to intestinal distress. You’re better off giving them healthier snacks between meals, such as baby carrots or other kinds of vegetables or fruit.
32. Ice cream is a popular dessert choice, but not very healthy.
We all scream for ice cream! Everyone loves a little bit of this sweet stuff — maybe on a birthday! However, even if you make this stuff at home from scratch, there will be a lot of sugar and fat involved in the process. Moreover, you don’t want your kids to eat that kind of stuff every single day. Overeating sugar can increase your child’s risk of hyperactivity and tooth decay. It can also increase their resistance to choosing healthier foods that provide more nutritional value. Instead, you can pulp fruit and freeze it for a healthier alternative. Children will enjoy a treat more that they get to customize with their favorite fruits than one that already comes pre-packaged. For a creamier texture, blend up some frozen bananas into the mix. They won’t notice the difference.
Granola bars that you get out of the box might seem like a good idea. Fruit and fiber, how bad can it be for a child? The word ‘granola’ is right in the name; it’s not like a piece of candy, which makes these treats perfect for school, right? Little did you know that they’re also packed with much unnecessary sugar. That doesn’t mean that you should write them off altogether. Obviously, skip the ones completely coated in chocolate. Instead, look at the list of ingredients and look for granola bars that don’t have added sugars. You can make your own healthy granola bars at home using granola, dried fruit, almonds, and walnuts to play it safe.
30. Frozen meat products are often provided as a quick meal option for children, but try to avoid that habit.
Frozen chicken nuggets or fish sticks seem like a convenient way to give your kids some protein. They’re fried, bite-sized, and easy for them to feed to themselves. These munchies are especially great if you had a long day at work or a lazy weekend. However, these kinds of foods are usually flash-fried, meaning that they have much fat. Unusually high in sodium, saturated fat, and preservatives, they also contain poor-quality chicken, fish, or cheese. They’re okay once in a while, and you can choose brands with lower saturated fat content. You may also want to try purchasing brands that use whole-grain breading.
Probiotics seem to be the rage this year, and more people are turning to raw milk instead of pasteurized. However, it would help if you didn’t consider giving raw milk. Although it has all digestive enzymes intact, children don’t have fully developed immune systems yet. Digesting it can lead them to get very sick in the process, especially regarding intestinal issues. You may want to stick with pasteurized milk for your kids for the time being until they can decide on their own as to what they want to drink. Raw milk has been known to carry dangerous germs such as E. coli and salmonella, which can pose serious health risks, especially for developing immune systems.
28. Children should avoid processed cheese snacks.
Processed cheese snacks, cracker snack packs, and cheesy straws — oh my! All of these baked, cheesy variations tend to be very high in salt, so you rethink giving them to your kids next time you want an easy snack to prepare. Although they have much calcium, there is also plenty of added salt and fat that aren’t good for your kids to be eating every day. Be sure to look at the ingredients first to find one with no additives. If you genuinely want to give them finger foods, go for pitas and guacamole or hummus. Many children grow up eating grilled cheeses for lunch, including a piece of cheese out of a plastic-like wrapper. This processed cheese contains a variety of ingredients, including salt, sodium, and phosphate.
27. Processed meat and burgers are unhealthy for developing kids.
Processed meats can be an easy thing to put into your kids’ sandwiches, but they’re some of the worst foods you can give to your kids. The meat in sausages and pre-packaged hamburger is usually of deficient quality, meaning high-fat content. A better choice would be processed fish products; even though it’s still not the healthiest, it is better than fatty meat and beef. Balance it out with some vegetables like peas, and if it’s battered, you can always scrape the batter off. While processed meats are easy to prepare, cost-effective, and typically liked by kids, they are not the healthiest option for your kids. In addition, increased consumption of processed meat can lead to an increased risk of developing cancer.
You might question who would give their child coffee in the first place. However, you would be surprised how many adolescents desire fancy iced coffees and cappuccinos from baristas. Caffeine can give you a boost of energy, but it can have terrible effects on kids. Once the caffeine runs out, kids will crash, and hard. Not only that, but caffeine will make it more difficult for them to concentrate and can adversely affect their overall daily moods. Avoid sodas loaded with caffeine, too, and provide watered-down juices. Opt for small pieces of white chocolate instead of milk chocolate. Provide chamomile tea as it has a soothing effect rather than a stimulating one. Your kids may enjoy these alternatives more if they know they’re available to them.
25. Dipping sauces are common condiments in households.
Unless you’re using a dipping sauce to convince kids to eat more veggies, it is best not to introduce them to condiments. Dipping sauces are usually provided for foods that they shouldn’t regularly be having anyway. Even though ketchup is great with fries, avoid it. Kids tend to use too much on their food, and that’s a lot of unnecessary calories. If you want to curb back on these empty calories, start measuring out one- to two-ounce servings in a small dish. Alternatively, you can try substituting other sauces with seasoned Greek yogurt. It will be healthier for them and will provide them with more essential nutrients.
24. Kool-Aid burst cherry is not healthy for kids.
This type of juice is the tasty summer drink that everyone remembers chugging as a kid. Who doesn’t love that big ol’ jug busting through the wall with his epic slogan? However, recent studies have shown that the cherry flavor is filled with so much artificial dye that there’s no way it’s healthy for your kids. There have even been petitions to remove certain red dyes from drinks, as it’s believed they caused adverse health effects, such as hyperactivity, for example. Kool-Aid lacks real fruit juice and is comprised of an exponential amount of sugar. While it may be a favorite among children, it is not the healthiest choice for them, and it is up to the adults in their lives to help steer them to make healthy choices. There are healthier drink choices out there that your kids will learn to love, such as actual fruit juices.
23. Supermarket pizza might offer a quick meal choice.
Just buy one, take it home, and throw it into the oven. Voila! Dinner is ready! However, this is not the best choice for your child since these frozen pizzas are loaded with salt and processed meat toppings. The combination of all that bad stuff is a recipe for disaster. Forget about getting stuffed crust pizzas too. It may take more time, but your pizza will actually taste better if you make it from scratch. You can buy already-made crusts and add whatever topics you want. Making dinner can even be an opportunity to sneak in some extra vegetables your kids would usually hate.
22. French fries are not the healthiest side choice for children.
This salty treat is probably the first fast food that most kids enjoy. They’ll eat them by the container-full if they could. But what kind of parent would you be if you allowed them to eat one of the worst fast foods possible? French fries are loaded with fat because each chip is fried in oil, allowing it to soak into every surface area. All of the added salt isn’t a good idea either since they will only become thirsty for more soda. Substitute French fries for air-fried veggie chips instead.
21. Too many cookies can be dangerous for children.
Cookies are always a sweet snack, as they come in a wide variety, are easy for children to hold, and can be paired with milk to ensure that they get their calcium. However, kids don’t know when to hold back and are more likely to eat more of these sweet treats than they should. These sugars and fats aren’t any good, so substitute them for cookies that you make yourself that have more whole grains and wheat in them. You’ll feel better knowing that you have more control over what they’re putting in their bodies.
20. Limit how many potato chips you give your children.
Just like French fries, potato chips are just fried slices of white potatoes. Although potatoes themselves are pretty healthy, they are mostly made of sugar. Processed in this way, you’re only adding more fat and salt to them that the nutrients aren’t worth it anymore. Cut back on how many potato chips your kids eat per day and don’t make it a featuring snack with every meal. If you don’t purchase them at the grocery store, your child won’t be tempted to eat them at home. So again, go for air-fried veggie options if you can. They’re a lot healthier and taste just as good.
19. Cap’n Crunch’s Oops All Berries are loaded with sugar.
All of those bright, fun colors are always eye-catching to children that they can’t help but reach for them when you’re heading through the cereal aisle. Don’t cave to pressure even if they’re kicking and screaming in the process, even if the box is easy on the wallet! You’ll be thankful later when you learn just how much dye goes into creating those bright colors. In fact, this brand has the highest amount of artificial color per serving of cereal. You’d be better off choosing a whole-grain cereal that’s much lower in sugar and doesn’t have any artificial colors. It’s not going to look great in your kid’s cereal bowl, but at least they’ll be eating healthy.
18. Try not to give children any M&M’s — even as a reward.
Candy, in general, isn’t healthy for kids, but some parents believe that even those fun-sized packets of M&M’s aren’t going to do much harm. After all, they can be handy when it comes to rewarding your kids — or bribing them! However, it’s not the sugar content you should worry about; it’s the amount of color dye used to make each of those round chocolate buttons pleasant to the eye. In fact, out of 50 candies measured, it’s ranked second in the highest amount of dyes used. SO skip this little treat and choose something else that’s not so colorful.
On the other side of the equation is Skittles: instead of chocolate, you have fruit-flavored snacks, each with their own flavor. Again, those colors didn’t come about naturally. One serving of Skittles, which is the entire pack, has 33.3 milligrams of dyes alone. That’s a lot to be putting into your body. In fact, the artificial colors used in Skittles are the same ones that are used in M&M’s. Skip these all together and get some fruit into your kids’ bodies instead of the artificial sugar. If you introduce fruit early on, children will prefer the taste of the real deal anyway.
16. Keebler cheese and peanut butter sandwich crackers contain high amounts of fat.
Crackers, you’d think, are supposed to be healthy for your kids. There’s no frying, less salt, and they’re easy for kids to eat. But surprise, surprise; they’re not as good as you initially thought. This one probably really hurts because these treats come in convenient wrappers, which are easy to toss in your kid’s lunch pack. This is because they have a lot of fat content, especially with the peanut butter that’s added to the middle. This ingredient gives kids a lot of unnecessary oils that they don’t need. Organic peanut butter options or making these sandwich crackers at home is a great alternative.
15. Sunny D orange strawberry is unhealthy for children.
Another fruit juice to avoid, Sunny D, is packed with too much sugar; you might as well let your kids eat it out of the bag with a spoon. It’s filled with vitamin C, sure, but that shouldn’t be its primary selling point since you can get vitamin C from better sources. Just have an actual orange, for instance. The color is also a cause for concern, as it doesn’t actually come from cherry juice. Instead, it is a result of red dye that’s been added to make it more attractive. Moreover, if your kid is drinking this every single day, then they’re absorbing a lot of that harmful dye.
14. Trix is a crunchy, fruity cereal that offers no nutritional value.
That crunchy, fruity cereal has been a favorite for decades, and everyone knows why. Those bright colors and fun shapes, what kid could resist? However, it’s because of all those fun colors that this is one of the worst cereals you can give your children. Like other foods on this list, all of that dye in each individual shape is more than the FDA recommends on a daily scale. So, silly rabbit, maybe Trix isn’t for kids after all. Maybe try some hearty oatmeal mixed with real fruit instead of the imitation stuff.
13. Powerade orange contains large amounts of harmful dyes.
Sports stars and athletics mostly use Powerade. That can be inspiring for kids who are just getting into sports and want to be like their idols. Although Powerade is excellent at keeping kids hydrated and replacing lost electrolytes after heavy activities, we have already mentioned how bad these sweet drinks are for children. Not only do sports drinks contain very little nutritional benefit, but they also leave less room in your kids’ diet for healthy items such as water, fruits, protein, and vegetables. These drinks may also cause tooth decay. However, if you must go for an energy drink, please do not purchase the orange at all costs. The orange color is very unnatural as a result of dyes. The same can be said for the blue and red Powerade too. Avoid these as much as possible and settle for water, and cut slices of fruit instead.
12. Fruity Cheerios are not as healthy as regular Cheerios.
Cheerios are supposed to be the heart-healthy choice since it doesn’t have much sugar and has a decent amount of fiber. However, that’s the regular Cheerios; the Fruity Cheerios are burdened with more dyes to create those colorful loops. Many researchers propose better alternatives, such as Berry Berry Kix, which uses fruit juice instead of dyes. You should also reach for Special K Red Berries since there are dried strawberries instead of this particular Cheerios variation. Consider these or go back to the original Cheerios if you need to provide your kid with a healthy snack.
11. Pancake and waffle mixes contain ingredients harmful to growing children.
Pancakes or waffles seem like a great way to start the day. They are hot, they can be loaded with fruit, and they will keep your kid full for the rest of the day. However, these boxed mixes contain many oils and shortening that your kid should not be having for breakfast, as they can carb crash in the middle of the day. In addition, many pancake mixes contain hydrogenated oil, the manufactured form of trans fat, which we all know is bad for us and can impact our cholesterol. Now Annie’s homegrown, organic pancake mix might be okay, but it’s better to make pancakes and waffles from scratch so that you can control precisely what is going into them. If you really want to give your children a healthy breakfast, just stick with the fresh fruit and hold the pancakes with syrup.
Regular yogurt is a popular snack among children. A great and healthy addition to a child’s diet, yogurt can be beneficial. However, kids’ yogurt is just the opposite. Many kids’ yogurt contains artificial colors and an extreme amount of added sugar. The amount of sugar contained in those yogurts are incredibly unhealthy and are not beneficial at all. In addition to the added sugar, the fun pink, blue, and red colors of children’s yogurt are all created by unhealthy, artificial dyes. Although many food dyes have been banned, others can cause allergic reactions in kids. They may also possibly trigger hyperactivity or other types of adverse behavior. Instead, you may want to research and buy regular yogurt to avoid these artificial coloring and unnecessary sugar.
9. The most popular movie time snack is microwaved popcorn — and it’s not healthy.
Microwaved popcorn is often a family’s go-to snack while spending an evening together or watching a movie. It is usually a favorite and quick, flavorful choice for kids’ snacks. It is quick and easy to throw a popcorn bag into the microwave and press the popcorn button. However, you should be aware that the bags used in microwaved popcorn can potentially release dangerous chemicals. The bags contain perfluorinated chemicals. When heated on high, they emit compounds in the process that can be potentially harmful to a child’s development and long-term health issues. Rather than choosing a pre-packaged bag of microwave popcorn, try popping some of your own kernels. Not only will you avoid toxic chemicals, but it can also be a fun experience for the family to do together.
Most households contain at least some canned foods from canned green beans, soup, and even canned tomatoes. However, it is vital to know the risks associated with canned food products when it comes to a child’s development. BPA is a toxic element that can be found in many packaging materials like plastic. However, in cans, it is detected in much higher amounts. Since BPA is located in the packaging of cans, this also means that it is emitted into the foods. The dangerous element of BPA can affect the development of the child, including their reproductive system. If you are looking to make pasta with a tomato sauce, you may want to look for a glass jar or use freshly chopped tomatoes. Additionally, rather than using canned vegetables, look to use fresh vegetables.
7. Hot dogs are a choking hazard — and processed meat.
Processed meat, specifically hot dogs, should be avoided given to children as much as possible. Although most kids love hot dogs, and they are often a popular quick meal while out and about, eating too many processed meat increases the likelihood of long-term health issues, including cancer. In addition to health concerns, hot dogs are more likely to lodge themselves in a child’s airway. A healthier alternative to the processed hot dogs is fish-based products. Even while out and about and with fast food, fish is a much healthier option for a child’s development than the processed meat in hot dogs. Therefore the next time you are at a sporting event or looking for a quick lunch idea, consider the alternatives.
6. Popular fruits such as cherries and grapes need to be cut in a particular way for toddlers.
It may seem contradictory advice not to feed a child whole fruit since they are incredibly healthy for their growing bodies. Although way more beneficial healthwise for their diet than processed sweets, some foods such as cherries and grapes can be hazardous. Whole fruits such as cherries and grapes can increase a child’s risk for choking by an exponential amount. These bite-sized, naturally sweet treats are perfectly shaped to slip into a young child’s airway and cutting off their oxygen. Parents can cut these fruits into quarters, making them less dangerous. However, provide them to children with extreme caution. You should always be sure to keep an eye on any child while he or she is eating.
5. If cautious, citrus fruits may be an excellent snack for children.
Oranges, tangerines, and other citrus fruits are terrific sources of vitamin C and fiber for growing children. While they can be a healthy snack in general, they can also be dangerous for small mouths. You should never provide children whole citrus segments. Even the sweet little clementines can increase their risk of choking. Like cherries and grapes, the choking hazard can be reduced drastically by cutting the citrus into smaller segments. However, even cut up citrus snacks should be heavily monitored when given to children.
4. Avoid peanut butter and other nut butters until a certain age.
A popular topping for toast or crackers, peanut, and nut jars of butter can be extremely dangerous. A spoonful of peanut or nut butter might seem like a great way to serve the creamy, protein-packed spread, but it also increases the risk of a young child choking. In addition, feeding peanut or nut kinds of butter to children may cause a peanut allergic reaction. It has since been recommended that babies younger than six months of age be introduced to peanut butter to reduce the occurrence or likelihood of peanut allergies, but that is a personal decision. It is best to consult with your physician and, if provided, spread it thinly.
3. While popular, babies and toddlers shouldn’t eat marshmallows.
A common component in both s’ mores and a large variety of sugary cereals, marshmallows should be avoided where possible. As a spongy substance, marshmallows are an obvious choking hazard and risk blocking a child’s airway. In addition to being a choking hazard, marshmallows are fluffy, sweet treats that are incredibly high in sugar, and not much else. Marshmallows offer very little nutritional value and can also increase a child’s taste preference for sugary treats. Increased consumption of sugary treats can then lead to tooth decay and possibly a refusal to eat their veggies. Their palettes should avoid sugary foods, so they do not become accustomed to them.
2. Do not feed children raw eggs and raw egg products.
For similar reasons that children should avoid eating rare beef, they should also avoid raw eggs or products that contain raw eggs. Although most eggs in the United States are pasteurized, which removes many of the health risks, they still carry a risk of salmonella. Underdeveloped immune systems, such as those in children, have a hard time fighting should it be contracted. This means that children should never be fed raw cookie dough, eggnog, and running egg yolks. These risks are difficult for adults to fight off but more so for children who have an immune system that is not as strong.
1. Like raw milk and egg products, children don’t need raw fish.
Sushi, sashimi, and poke are considered delicious, protein and omega-3 fatty acid packed foods. However, children should avoid eating any raw fish at all costs. There are many risks associated with eating raw fish that can be harmful to children. Eating raw fish contains potential hazards such as hepatitis, parasitic infections, and salmonella. The emerging, developing immune systems in children can’t always fight these risks. It is more important to be safe and not take the risk. Children’s immune systems have not fully developed, and issues such as hepatitis or salmonella are too intense for them to fend off.