Mac & Cheese
Is surely a kid staple and in theory, if prepared with quality ingredients could offer some important nutrients for kids in the form of the B vitamins in grains and calcium in cheese (if tolerated). However, the box variety that has become popularized comes with many unhealthy ingredients. Refined white pasta or ‘macaroni product, multiple forms of food coloring, artificial ingredients and 14 grams of sugar for an average child’s serving (1/2 box) hardly constitutes for a healthy meal for a child.
Alternative: Look for a whole grain macaroni and varieties that are free of artificial coloring, flavors, and added sugar. Remember that most boxed Mac & Cheese have higher levels of sodium (820mg per serving.) It is recommended that children only have between 1,000-1,500 milligrams per day maximum depending on a child’s age.
Product: Road’s End Organic offers a dairy free Mac & Cheese with whole grain brown rice pasta, nutritional yeast and no artificial colors, flavors. It has less than 1gram of sugar and offers 5grams of fiber per serving.
Cool Ranch Chips & Crackers
Kids are often searching for the chip with the most flavorful crunch and vibrant color. These chips tend to full of corn syrup solids, M.S.G, food coloring, and unhealthy oils. This mix of synthetic ingredients leads to poor concentration, hyperactivity in children and weight gain. A recent study revealed that some types of corn syrup may contain detectable levels of mercury, which has a negative effect on a child’s developing brain.
Some popular children’s crackers are filled with trans fats, preservatives and produced with dangerous pesticides. Avoiding these ingredients will support healthy growth and development.
Alternative: Look for chips with whole grain ingredients that are free from preservatives and artificial ingredients. Look for crackers without hydrogenated oils, preservatives and other additives. Often, organic products offer more quality ingredients and more nutrients for your growing children.
Products: Late July Organic Multigrain Snack Chips Dude Ranch offers whole grain quinoa, millet, brown rice, amaranth in addition to flax, chia and expeller pressed oils. There are no synthetic preservatives, artificial colors, flavors or high-fructose corn syrup. Late July Organic Crackers offers kids the flaky, rich tasting crackers they love, but without dangerous pesticides, trans fats, flavor, colors or preservatives.
Chocolate Chip Cookies
I haven’t met a kid ever that doesn’t love a cookie. But with the hefty amount of sugar, partially hydrogenated soybean oil and high fructose corn syrup you might want to rethink this choice for a sweet treat. These ingredients contribute to weight gain in children and raising cholesterol to unhealthy levels. Children as young as two can have high cholesterol.
Alternative: Look for a cookie without hydrogenated oils, corn syrup and less sugar.
Product: Dr. Lucy’s Chocolate Chip cookies are nut free, gluten free and use more natural forms of sugar like molasses. The cookies have a blend of healthier flours (oat, garbanzo bean, sorghum and fava) offering more nutrients compared to a cookie using refined white flour. Ingredients used are also not genetically modified.
For many kids, boxed cold cereal is a staple for a breakfast, but many varieties are using ingredients from genetically modified sources. Children are especially vulnerable to the harmful effects of synthetic pesticides. There haven’t been enough studies on the long-term risks and potential effects of genetically modified food, however possible health concerns are obesity, new allergens, nutritional changes and the threat of antibiotic resistance. In Canada, about 70-80 per cent of food sold includes genetically modified ingredients from corn, soy, and canola.
While many other countries now have mandatory GM labeling rules in place, Canada does not. Health Canada allows food makers to voluntarily mention whether their foods contain GM ingredients, which makes it difficult as a parent to tell if you are feeding genetically modified ingredients to your children.
Alternative: Look for companies that voluntarily label that they do not use genetically modified ingredients.
Product: Nature’s Path Whole O’s clearly indicates that there are no genetically modified ingredients.
With an average 45grams or 10 teaspoons of sugar in one can along with food coloring and artificial flavors, pop is contributing to unhealthy eating habits and weight gain in children. According to the American Heart Association Preschoolers with a daily caloric intake of 1,200 to 1,400 calories shouldn't consume any more than 170 calories, or about 4 teaspoons, of added sugar a day. Children ages 4-8 with a daily caloric intake of 1,600 calories should consume no more than 130 calories, or about 3 teaspoons a day. Stats Canada reports that beverages are among the top sources of sugar consumed by children and by the age of 9-19 soft drinks rank number one. On average Canadian consume 26 teaspoons of sugar per day, teenage boys aged 14 to 18 consume the highest at 41 teaspoons.
Alternative: It’s important to focus on helping your child to reduce consumption of soft drinks. To help make that transition look for more natural ingredients in pop that offers a similar taste.
Product: Santa Cruz Organic Carbonated Flavored Beverages ingredients include: Carbonated filtered water, organic evaporated cane juice, organic natural flavors, concentrated organic lemon juice. One can has 31grams of sugar making it a better choice, but one that you still have to use moderation.
Fruit Leather / Candy
With corn syrup as the second and third ingredients trans fats and food coloring you might want to think twice about how much fruit is in your children’s fruit leather treats. Food coloring has been shown to cause hyperactivity in children and poor concentration. The overly sweet taste is also making your children crave more sweets.
Alternative: Choose fruit snacks that contain fruit and have no artificial colors or flavors.
Product: Florida’s Natural Earth’s Own Organics contain no food coloring or artificial ingredients.
Miranda Malisani stresses the importance a healthy lifestyle as our Resident Nutritionist. Read more…