As parents, we know that giving our kids a double chocolate mocha latte at four o’clock in the afternoon is a terrible idea. That’s not rocket science. But we aren’t always aware of some the seemingly harmless foods with hidden problems.
Before you doom yourself to another afternoon of asking, “what the heck is my kid doing and why in the world are they doing it,” get a new perspective on foods that can make a day with your kids miserable. Some foods are a given (see above crazy coffee order), but others might surprise you.
Sugar is obviously a no-brainer. Despite various studies that have tried to prove that sugar has no effect on hyperactivity (and we can go right ahead and make some pretty solid guesses at what industries were sponsoring those studies), anyone who has been a parent for more than five minutes knows that is unequivocally a lie. They will get all hyped out, and it’s not because they’re at a party. If you give them a giant bowl of ice cream just sitting at home in the kitchen they’re going to be bouncing off the walls in T-minus 10 minutes.
Bagels, yes, you read that right. Those delicious, doughy rings of delight aren’t much different than a big bowl of ice cream when it comes to blood sugar levels. The glycemic index on bagels is shockingly high. What’s worse, though, is the accompanying crash. When blood sugar spikes it then drops, and with low blood sugar comes lethargy, irritability, depression and moodiness. Cranky kids are worse than hyper kids, so avoid the sugar crash.
3. Maraschino cherries
Maraschino cherries, those unnaturally bright red abominations that come in jars and end up on top of desserts and in drinks, are like beacons of bliss to kids. They don’t actually taste very good at all, so don’t go thinking kids get excited about them because they’re a delicacy of some sort. Really, most of the appeal is in the candy colored mirage. Sugar content aside, that color is far from nature made. Most of the time our lovely little petroleum based food dye friend Red #40 is responsible for the day-glow appearance. There have been studies linking artificial colors to mold disruptions, hyperactivity, and various other health issues. There’s no point in taking that risk.
4. Pre-packed lunches
Those advertisements for prepackaged lunches sure are tempting, right? They taunt you with their promise of an easy morning lunch packing routine. And the kids think they look amazingly scrumptious. Then the television magic fades away and you realize they are a disaster of a meal. They’re full of sodium, unnecessarily added sugar in places you wouldn’t even think of (like the lunch meat), artificial food coloring, the list is endless, not to mention the amount of waste involved in the packaging. They’re not a solution, they’re a problem. Don’t fall for it.
5. Breakfast cereal
Most of us grew up thinking breakfast cereals were healthy, good for us even. After all, breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Except, the majority of the cereals out there are, like most foods marketed to kids, nothing but sugar and food dye-filled bombs of food-like substance. Your kids will have a better day if they eat something with actual nutritional value for breakfast. Give them fuel for their mind and body and avoid the blood sugar crash. Eggs, yogurt with fruit, or even natural granola is a much better option.
6. Kids' meals at restaurants
We all know eating out is not idea when it comes to healthy meal options, but kids’ menus are downright offensive in most restaurants. If you are going to have a meal out, dissuade your little ones from having the standard pizza/chicken nuggets/burger options from the kids menu and encourage them to try something from the regular menu that at least includes a vegetable. This is especially important if you’re having dinner out because a meal that is lacking nutrients and is heavy in fats, carbohydrates, and sugars can make for a poor night’s sleep. You don’t want that. Remember: tired kids are cranky kids and cranky kids will make your day a million times harder.
7. Juice pouches
Juice pouches are…not even remotely made of juice. Juice itself is not the greatest of options when it comes to quenching thirst and hydrating our bodies, but these things are basically soda without the bubbles. Don’t be fooled if it says organic on the pouch, that doesn’t change the fact that they’re liquid candy with a straw. If you’re confused as to why this is a bad option please see section one above.
8. French fries
It’s tough to say no to French fries, for ourselves and for our kids, but it turns out that foods high in saturated fat like French fries can actually be responsible for the dreaded “food coma” effect. As funny as it seems, this is an actual physiological reaction called post-prandial somnolence. Basically as your body is working to digest food it diverts blood flow from your brain to your stomach to help with absorption of nutrients which ends up making you tired. When foods are higher in fats this sometimes increases post-prandial somnolence. Tired kids are difficult kids and difficult kids are exhausting.
9. Fruit snacks
Every kid loves fruit snacks. Their chewy, gummy sweetness and bight colors call to them like sirens of the sea. But they’re terrible for you. No really, even the ones that advertise themselves as all natural with no artificial food dye are a sugar bomb. Calling them “fruit” anything is a stretch. High sugar content, food dye, zero nutritional value – that’s a recipe for disaster. Skip the fruit snack and go with freeze-dried fruits instead for the sake of your sanity.
With over 20 grams of sugar in a 12-ounce serving, it’s another no-brainer. The offenses don’t stop there, though. Most sodas contain high levels of acid. More specifically citric, carbonic and phosphoric acids. This acid content wreaks havoc on your child’s tooth enamel. If you think your kids hate the dentist now just imagine how much of a headache it would be (and what your dental bills would look like) if they had a mouth full of cavities from drinking soda all the time. Swap it out for sparking water with a little fruit juice. They’ll thank you later when they have strong and healthy teeth.