When it comes to preventing childhood obesity, most parents know the basics: plenty of exercise, less sedentary time, and of course the one we all struggle with the most, a well- balanced diet.

Although many food companies promote their products as healthy, a majority of them still lack the nutrition your child needs to avoid future weight issues. In fact, many companies advertise “healthy” nutritional components with the hopes of distracting buyers from outrageously poor ingredients. So what specific food and ingredients should you avoid feeding your child?

Popular high-sodium food products:

Sodium is one of those ingredients that parents aren’t generally too concerned about. Children can’t get high blood pressure so why worry, right? Wrong! According to HealthyChildren.org too much sodium in a child’s diet can in fact to lead to high blood pressure as well as kidney stones, and ulcers. It may also increase the chances of obesity as it causes children to become thirsty more often, leading to the intake of unnecessary calories from sugary juice and soda drinks.

The following are packaged foods that several major media outlets have identified as having extremely high levels of sodium and sugar. These are food products that kids love, but that you may want to keep out of your cupboard:

Kid Cuisine All Star Chicken Nuggets
The label claims that the enclosed corn, chicken, and pasta are a good source of five vitamins and minerals however what they fail to advertise is the 200 mg of sodium per serving.

Pepperidge Farm Goldfish Crackers
This snack time favorite may be “trans-fat free” but that doesn’t cancel out the 250 mg of sodium per serving.

Campbells Soup Cars Souper Shapes Condensed Soup
What child wouldn’t love eating noodles in the shape of their favorite Pixar movie characters? Even better – the noodles are made from whole grain. But what about the whopping 580 mg of sodium per serving?

Oscar Mayer Lunchables Mini Tacos
Yes, the convenience of a lunchable may be appealing, and yes, your child may beg you for it at the grocery store, but that doesn’t make it worth the 780 mg of sodium per serving.

Popular high-sugar food products

Sugar is not necessarily a bad food, however the problem emerges when it becomes a staple in a child’s diet and replaces healthy foods that contain necessary nutrients. Limiting (not completely eliminating) your child’s intake will not only prevent the chances of developing obesity in the future, but will also promote better dental health. Are you aware of how much sugar you’re feeding your child?

The following is a list of convenient pre-packaged high sugar products that are popular with kids but should be replaced with healthy, low sugar foods:

Kudos Chocolate Chip Granola Bars
High in calcium, and made with whole grains, but they’re also chocked full of 28.4 grams of sugar.

Betty Crocker Fruit By The Foot
Most parents know that giving their child a fruit roll-up means an automatic sugar buzz, but the sugar content may be more than you think – 48% of one roll-up by weight.

Kellogs Fruit Loops
It’s not just cookies and candy that parents have to worry about it – it’s cereal too. Once again, this food is advertising that it’s made with whole grain, but that doesn’t cancel out the fact that 41.4% of the cereal is sugar.

Kellogs Pop-Tarts
Kellogs has always advertised their popular product as a great before-school snack on-the-go made “with real fruit”! However, that “real fruit” (about 2% in the entire pop-tart) doesn’t account for the 16 grams of sugar per pastry.

Sources:
Time.com
WashingtonPost.com
CBSnews.com

Feed your child’s body and brain at school:

Although the food products listed above may be some of your child’s favorites, replacing them with healthier choices will not only help your child maintain a healthy weight, but may also encourage better brain function, critical to helping your child absorb everything they need to learn during the school year.

School lunches are known for high sodium, high fat, high sugar, and low quality ingredients. I highly recommend packing a lunch for your child every night before school. A tasty sandwich with high quality deli meat and cheese with a few tasty snacks will get them through their day much better.

Here are some good alternatives to traditional high sodium, high sugar snacks that will be an easy and nutritious addition to their homemade school lunch or after school snack. 

– Carrots and celery sticks with hummus
– Pita wedges and hummus
– Annie’s Cheddar Bunnies (great alternative to goldfish)
– Fruit with homemade dip (mix a bit of cinnamon into french vanilla yogurt)
– Whole grain crackers
– Light popcorn (NOT movie theater butter popcorn)
– Chewy oatmeal cookies – Click for recipe
– Homemade trail mix – click for recipe
– Homemade banana muffins- click for recipe

Click here to learn more about healthier food alternatives for kids!

Still have questions? We have answers!

If you’re concerned about your child’s weight or have questions about nutrition call to set up an appointment for our Nutrition Management Program.

About the Author

Dr. Katalenas

Dr. Katalenas is a pediatrician and owner of The Pediatric Center of Round Rock and the author of the book "The Step Up Diet: From Scratch… The Quality, Quantity, and Timing Solution to Childhood Obesity", a guide to healthy cooking and eating for busy families.