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Here are 6 foods that are commonly marketed as being healthier than they are.

There are many foods on store shelves that seem healthy or that are marketed as being good for you. But these foods may not be as healthy as you think. Some of these foods are ones we feel comfortable giving to our kids because we may be wooed by their healthfulness. But they’re usually not the healthiest options for kids or adults alike.

Here are 6 kid-friendly foods that are not as healthy as you think:
  1. Flavored yogurt – Many brands of yogurt are targeted at kids, sporting fun flavors and toppings. But these yogurts often contain tons of sugar and likely also contain artificial colors and flavors. Instead, give your kids plain yogurt with fruit, nuts or preserves mixed in.
  2. Cereal bars – The packaging may tout whole grains, fiber and other healthful ingredients, but many of these bars contain a lot of added sugar. Plus, since they are highly processed, they often include artificial ingredients that are less than healthy. You’re better off giving kids a small bag or container filled with whole-grain cereal mixed with dried fruit and a few nuts.
  3. Fruit snacks – Although fruit is in the name, these sweet and bright treats are really nothing more than candy. The fruit they contain is concentrated fruit juice, which is basically just sugar. Many also have artificial colors, flavors and fillers. Instead, give kids fresh or dried fruit, which is also sweet but has a lot more nutrition.
  4. Veggie snacks – Think you’re giving your kids a serving of vegetables when you give them veggie puffs, straws or chips? They’re mostly made with highly processed refined grains, such as corn, soy and rice flour, as well as refined processed oils, like soy and canola. Any veggies they contain are in powder form and offer a lot less fiber and vitamins than the real thing. They may be a tad healthier than potato chips or cheese puffs, but for a healthier chip, make your own kale chips.
  5. Juice – Many kids drink juice and it seems like it would be a healthy beverage. After all, it’s made from fruit, right? The problem is that even if it’s 100% juice, the fiber is stripped out, which helps the body absorb the sugar more slowly. Some juice and juice cocktails contain added sugar. Too many sugar-sweetened beverages can lead to weight gain and a higher risk of diabetes later in life. To lower your child’s sugar intake, give them more water and less sugary juice.
  6. Enhanced drinks – There’s no shortage of marketing on the beverage shelves for drinks that contain vitamins, minerals and electrolytes. But these drinks often contain lots of sugar or artificial sweeteners. They also often contain artificial flavors and colors. The best way to get vitamins, minerals and electrolytes is from natural foods. And unless your child is exercising intensely for a long time or when it’s very hot, they’re better off drinking water than sports drinks.

Many snack foods claim to be good for you when they actually are loaded with refined grains, sugars, and other unhealthy additives. Per the American Heart Association, U.S. Adults and children are consuming 2-3 times more than the recommended limit of added sugars. Men should limit their intake to no more than 9 teaspoons daily (or 36 grams daily) and women and children over the age of 2 should consume less than 6 teaspoons (or 25 grams daily). Children under the age of 2 should consume no added sugar.

-Desiree D. Lafleur, Clinical Dietitian


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Date Last Reviewed: April 17, 2024

Editorial Review: Andrea Cohen, Editorial Director, Baldwin Publishing, Inc. Contact Editor

Medical Review: Jane Schwartz, RDN, CLT

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