Most of the foods that are targeted towards kids are unhealthy, unnatural and lack sustenance. The sugary cereals, the sweet juices and the fast food kid’s meals are not only fattening, they’re lacking essential vitamins and minerals. For the most part, these foods are empty calories.
As the Huffington Post columnist, Dr. Mark Hyman, states, “The problem is that the standard American diet is energy dense (too many calories) but nutrient poor (not enough vitamins and minerals).” As you consume more empty calorie foods, the more nutrients you actually need and the less nutrients you actually get (1).
This lack of nutrients is causing a lot of issues in children. Even though a third of all children in the United States are overweight, a large portion of these kids are also not getting what their body needs. They aren’t getting the nutrients they need to reach their full potential in academics or sports.
Check out our other articles in our Childhood Nutrition Series:
- Why You Shouldn’t Put Your Child on a Diet. Do These 9 Things Instead.
- Why Food’s Marketed to Kids Causes Weight Gain
- How Juice Went From A Health Food to Junk Food
“Hidden Hunger:” Malnutrition in Children
This has created an issue that is called “Hidden Hunger.” Despite how much children are eating and how many calories they potentially are consuming; the body is wanting more nutrients.
According to the Guardian: “More than half of American children do not get enough of vitamins D and E, while more than a quarter do not get enough calcium, magnesium or vitamin A, according to a recent Journal of Nutrition study.” This can cause many health related issues such as diabetes, heart disease, poor cognitive and mental development.
The Foods Kids Shouldn’t be Eating
The reason why this has become such a problem is because in the past few decades, portion sizes have increased and foods have grown sweeter. This has caused the healthier benefits of many foods to be reduced and pushed aside for these less healthier options and portions (2).
Recently, there has been much discussion in the media about the food industry and it’s targeting of children. There has been a backlash toward industries that try to promote their foods as healthy, when the foods are full of added sugars; people are starting to get the message and the government is pressuring these organizations to stop targeting kids.
But until these commercials and advertisements are pushed aside, the first step for you is to create a healthy alternative at home. It’s all about making small incremental changes in your kid’s habits as well as your own.
These heavily processed foods are not the sort of foods children should be eating and they are not helping kids reach their full potential. Foods high in sugars spike insulin levels and eventually leave kids feeling extremely tired and lethargic.
Foods Targeted to Kids
- Cereals targeted to kids: Lucky Charms has 10 g of sugar for a 3/4th cup of cereal and that doesn’t include the sugar already found in milk. Would you allow your child to eat sugar cubes for breakfast? Avoid all cereals low in fiber, high in sugar, food additives and food coloring.
- Go-Gurt: Go-Gurt is specifically targeted towards children! These have more sugar by ounce than a soda. Yogurt, in general, can be bad. Fat-free yogurt usually has more sugar than low fat or whole fat yogurt. This is because when fat is removed it is often replaced with sugar. This goes for most low fat foods. Check labels! TIP: Go for the no-sugar added Greek yogurt. Add your own fruit puree into the mix. Add almond butter to make Greek yogurt. You can drop in some honey to replicate the sweet taste. Overtime, you can reduce the amount of honey you put into yogurt until there’s no more honey. It may take some time but the goal is to reset your child’s taste buds.
- Lunchables are high in saturated fat, salt and sugar. They have 37% of the recommend daily salt intake for an adult. That’s over 50% of the daily recommended amount of salt for a child.
- 100% Juice: Find out how fruit juice went from a health food to a junk food. While it has some nutrients, juices and sodas should be avoided. Eat fruit instead.
- Hot dogs are usually high in fat and salt. Look for healthier options with no nitrates or go with turkey slices instead.
- Ketchup has hidden sugar. Look for the no sugar added or reduced sugar variety.
- Goldfish crackers and other similar crackers. These have little to no nutritional value.
- Packaged frozen snacks including Toaster Strudel and Auntie Anne’s Pepperoni Pretzel pockets are not good. Try to avoid them all.
- White bread: White bread is high in simple carbs and low in nutrients. Switch to whole wheat and rotate peanut butter with almond or sunflower seed butter for more nutrients per bite.
So what foods should kids eat?
The Foods Kids Should Be Eating
There are plenty of highly dense, nutrient-rich foods that kids should be consuming. Many of which are referred to as Superfoods and for a good reason. They are superheroes in the world of nutrition.
Superfoods help increase brain power and keep children’s moods regulated. They provide optimal nutrition that’s not always found in other ordinary foods. These include:
- Chia Seeds
Of course, consult your child’s doctor before introducing a new food to your their diet. The physician may recommend a daily vitamin supplement and other foods to add to your child’s diet.
In order to better help your child and create a healthier lifestyle for them, you need to first start and create a better one for yourself and the whole family. After starting the dialogue with your child about their weight, you can talk to them about how to add more nutritious foods into their diet. Make this a fun experience for kids! Don’t make it sound like a chore.
You are their role model (3). Your child will learn how to eat from you and what to eat from you. That’s why having dinnertime with the family is so important.
Creating a special time for you and your family is the perfect way to introduce newer foods and a better lifestyle.
When you sit down and eat with your kids you are creating a meaningful moment for you to bond, to foster better habits and to teach them how to eat. Solving health issues takes time and a lot of care on the part of the parent, but once you start this healthier journey it will get easier.
Additional Resources and Information:
Hidden hunger: America’s Growing Malnutrition Epidemic