Tuesday, May 20, 2014

pediatrician psa: top 5 foods parents think are healthy for kids but aren't

1. Juice. The juice companies have got us all fooled. Their commercials would have us believe juice is packed with nutrition and is "part of this balanced breakfast!" At worst, juice is little more than corn syrup and water with added flavoring-- basically, uncarbonated soda. (I'm looking at you, CapriSun and SunnyD.) At best, 100% juice may provide some vitamins, but it also provides lots of mostly empty calories that don't fill kids up-- they'd be better off eating fruit and drinking water. Because juice provides all the sugar of fruit but none of the fiber, it tends to cause watery bowel movements (contributing to a phenomenon known as "toddler's diarrhea").

2. Fruit snacks. See above-- same song, different verse. Sticky fruit snacks have the added benefit of getting stuck in kids' teeth and causing cavities. Give them berries instead (or dried fruit -- but see below).

3. Granola bars. These seem like they should be SUPER HEALTHY-- and okay, they're probably better than chips or cookies. But they have a LOT of added sugar, often in corn syrup form. And many granola bars have even more sticky-sweet extras in the form of chocolate chips, M&Ms, or even marshmallows. See also: trail mix.

4. Cereal. Sure, whole grain cereal with skim milk and no added sugar is pretty healthy. But switch it to a sugar-coated, refined-flour cereal (with marshmallows!) and it turns into junk food.

5. Dried fruit. Okay, this is actually healthy in most circumstances-- dried fruit is full of iron and fiber and other good things. But for kids who are overweight, dried fruit can be a hidden danger, because it's a more calorically-dense version of its fresh fruit counterpart. Think about it this way: no one would sit down and eat five plums, but you could easily eat five prunes. Twenty grapes would be a reasonably filling snack, while twenty raisins wouldn't be much more than a mouthful. Keep in mind, too, that some dried fruits (like banana chips) are coated in added sugar. (Also, most dried fruit tends to be quite sticky, which isn't so good for the teeth, just like fruit snacks.)

Check out the AAP's list of healthy snacks for kids!

(Legal disclaimer: This information is intended only to provide general information and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis, or treatment by your child's doctor. I am a real pediatrician, but I'm not your pediatrician.)

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