With Father’s Day around the corner, I bring you the sequel to my original post regarding the junk that I see kids fed all too often.
As I always mention in nearly every single post…it’s not that you (or your kids) “can never have ____ food.” The point is that if you (or your kids) are eating these foods as a routine rather than a fun, seldom, treat…THAT is the real problem.
Brace yourself for what follows, it’s quite likely to offend some of you. If you’re easily offended, then I suggest you stop reading now. However, if you’re open to knowledge of how to raise healthier kiddos, then keep going.
Pancakes. Waffles. Muffins.
Ok, stop freaking. I’m not saying they ALL suck. It all comes down to what exactly is in them. Nearly all “standard versions” of these foods are the equivalent of feeding your kids birthday cake for breakfast. (White flour and sugar with frosting aka fake-syrup.) If you can either make or find a mix that is based in 100% whole grain flour, less added sugar and perhaps add ground almonds (or other nuts), flax, chia, wheat germ, or all sorts of other cool nutrient-rich things, then maybe you can turn things around here.
Also, if you’re going to use syrup, invest in REAL maple syrup. At least you’ll get a little nutrient bang for the buck. The most common fake-maple-flavored corn syrups that most people use are a sad, sad, sad excuse for consumable food-like product (read the ingredients). You might say “but those [better] mixes and real syrup cost too much!” Well, how often are you eating these foods anyway? Perhaps getting some variety in your breakfasts could be useful. Also, sometimes there is a reason that some foods are super cheap…because they provide you with nothing useful.
Kool-Aid. Capri Sun. Sunny Delight. Soda.
C’mon, really? I’ve said what I think of juice in the last post on the matter of kid foods, but these juice-like drinks are even worse. Artificial flavoring, artificial food dyes, artificial sweeteners (in the “low sugar” versions)…notice a trend here? Your kids’ brains were not designed to thrive on artificial foods or drinks. Most regular versions are a sloppy mess of added sugar. All this does is not quench our thirst, making us want more…and more…and more…because our body is trying desperately to find water. We also pave the way for a rollercoaster of blood sugar, leading to craving MORE sugar all day long.
PLEASE teach your kids to search for water as a main beverage. Their growing bodies, brains, and kidneys need this habit so very badly. Guess what the most common cause of UTIs and kidney stones is? Yes, that’s right; it’s dehydration. What will you often notice when you provide water for your kids? They drink it. It’s really interesting.
Save the sugary beverages as a rare, occasional, novel treat, and your kids will grow into adults with good habits.
Popsicles. Snow cones.
These suck for all the same reasons outlined in #2. I know many of us grown-ups have fond memories of sucking on these cold treats in the Summers of our childhood. However, if that’s what you’re thinking, think about this: how many health issues are you currently battling? High triglycerides? Elevated blood sugar? Difficulty losing weight?
Look, I’m not saying that your beloved popsicles “caused” any of these health issues directly. But these, along with a lot of our other lifelong habits, most certainly (and significantly) lead us toward the chronic health issues we face as adults. If you don’t believe that, then you’re in complete denial of science, including epigenetics, inflammation, etc. Save your kids from these same issues; it’s your job. Their lifelong habits start when they are teensy little toddlers.
What’s wrong with these portable-little lunches, you might ask? Well, there are so few nutrients in them they shouldn’t even be sold as food. There are many different versions of these things, so I’m going to speak broadly here. Most contain some kind of white-flour, super-preserved, fake-butter-flavored cracker on which your littles put a meat-like product (usually made from cow and/or pig eyelids and rectums leftover from meat processing). And lest we forget some sort of sugary beverage pouch and multi-fake-dyed dessert. YUM!
Take a look at the ingredients on the side of the box sometime. It’s hard because you’ll have to squint – they’ve managed to fit the 7,000 ingredients onto that teensy little panel on the side of the box. It doesn’t matter though, because most of us wouldn’t recognize many of those ingredients anyway; they’re not real food.
At the very least, you can DIY these little lunch-boxes with 100% whole grain crackers, good-quality deli meat, and real cheese. Or, what about a tuna sandwich with a good-quality mayo (soybean oil should not be the base…try to find avocado oil or olive oil based mayo) on 100% whole grain bread?
Boxed Mac & Cheese.
Ok, ok. I actually have some of this (Annie’s brand) in my pantry right now. But here’s the thing – most versions of boxed mac & cheese are composed of white-flour pasta and artificially cheese-flavored powder that has artificial orange coloring to make it appear more orangey. Gross. IF you must buy boxed (which, like I said, I have used sometimes), at least use a better brand without fake junk in it and add some vegetables. Our favorite is peas in our macaroni at my house.
Furthermore, have you ever attempted to make homemade macaroni? It seriously doesn’t take me but 5 minutes longer to make than when I make boxed, and that includes hand-shredding some real cheese. Do not—I say again, DO NOT—use Velveeta. Please. You can (and should) use whatever 100% whole grain noodle shape you want. You make a roux with butter and flour; add whole milk and whisk together. Then add shredded cheese and whisk until smooth. All the while, your noodles should’ve been cooking and will be done by the time your sauce is done. You drain the noodles and stir in the cheese sauce. Google homemade mac & cheese and I bet you’ll find 10,000 recipes with exact steps. Try it with extra-sharp white cheddar – I doubt you’ll be disappointed.
Kids learn what you teach them. Teach them to not only eat healthy foods, but to find ways to make them super tasty. Eating healthy doesn’t have to suck! If it does for you, then you’re doing it wrong. Fat isn’t “fattening,” and can really take your vegetables to the next level. Not all whole grains are “grainy.” You don’t have to love ALL vegetables, but you have to find ways to eat more of the ones you do love.
Your kids depend on you 100% for the foods you provide to them and the habits you teach them. You and I cannot take this lightly. Life can include treats, but by mere definition a treat is something that happens infrequently as a novelty. Please feed their little bodies and brains things that are useful to them and nourishing; and teach them how to make that taste absolutely awesome. If you need help doing so, consult a registered dietitian nutritionist.
xoxo – Casey