Take a walk through any place with children and you’re bound to see it – plates piled high with enough junk food to feed an army. Cookies, Bosco sticks, fruit snacks, pizza, soda pop, nachos and muffins are just a few of the primary offenders in hundreds of cafeterias and homes across America. If you’re a parent who has had enough of seeing your child’s health deteriorate, or you’re someone who simply wants to make better food choices, this is the article for you. Read on to learn more about 10 terrible “health foods” and what you can choose instead.

1. Veggie chips

Moms everywhere must be wary of vegetable chips of any kind. While these so-called “health promoting” items will claim to provide valuable nutrients, the opposite is nearly always the case. They might contain some vegetable “powder”, but they are still chips, and junky ones at that. Go for real veggies with a whole-foods-based dip, instead.

2. Sports drinks

It seems beverages such as Gatorade, Propel and Capri Sun have incessantly been touted as perfect alternatives to soda pop for kids. A product’s marketing often successfully convinces parents that there are fewer artificial ingredients and less sugar. Unfortunately, this “health foods truth” does not hold up. Even taking Gatorade’s Thirst Quencher for example, drinking an entire bottle of this stuff yields over 50 grams of sugar. That’s essentially the same as an eight ounce can of soda pop. Water and whole foods are really all your body needs to replenish itself.

3. Cereal and breakfast bars

Cereal bars appear as innocuous as can be, but sugar is the culprit yet again. Companies manufacturing massive levels of products with even higher profits already understand how powerful sugar is. All kinds of companies use this to their advantage, adding sugar liberally to baseline “flavor frames” that kids already love. Next time you’re at the grocery store, pick up a box of your family’s favorite breakfast bar and you’ll be shocked at how much sugar is in the ingredients. You’re significantly better off with whole wheat toast, a nut butter or a minimal-sugar jam instead.

4. Fruit juice

Your child is probably all too familiar with the cry of, “Part of a complete and balanced breakfast!” This proclamation comes from dozen’s of children’s cereal commercials, lauding orange juice as a mainstay of a “real” breakfast. Sadly, fruit juices lack the essential fiber that makes fruit consumption so redemptive. Skip the OJ in favor of whole strawberries, bananas or grapes.

5. Graham crackers

These staples of s’mores might taste a lot better than a piece of cardboard, but their nutritional value does not follow suit. Void of any genuine nutrients and once more having unnecessary sugar, there’s nothing that can save the day for graham crackers. Opt for whole-grain crackers or whole wheat pita bread instead.

6. Veggie puffs

Almost identical to veggie chips, veggie puffs are even worse because they’ve been further removed from their natural, “health foods” state. If your child really loves the taste and texture of potato products, introduce them to sweet potato fries and see if this catches on. While fries are still a step down from whole food choices, sweet potato fries carry a bigger punch with Vitamin A, Vitamin B6 and magnesium.

7. Reduced fat peanut butter

Peanut butter has been on a roller coaster of media coverage over the last decade. Some media outlets have commended it, others have ruthlessly shot it down. The truth is, peanut butter is one of the best snacks out there, as long as it hasn’t been modified too heavily. Therefore, if you see reduced fat peanut butter, it’s a sure sign it can’t be very beneficial. Fat is one of the healthiest parts of peanut butter, and offers a perfect alternative to munching on microwaved junk food and sugar-laden cookies.

8. Fruit snacks

Ahh, fruit snacks – perhaps the greatest offender of them all. The name itself hints at the possibility of nutritional validity, but it’s a swing and a miss on this one. Virtually all fruit snacks on the market are nothing more than a bunch of sugar, perhaps some gelatin, artificial coloring and a fruit flavored name. If there is some “fruit juice” in there, it’s either artificial or unable to outweigh the sugar in the rest of the product. Offer your child some freshly cut fruit or frozen bananas. You’ll be amazed at how much they’re likely to enjoy the latter.

9. Muffins

Over the past two decades or so, muffins seem to have fought to the front lines of “healthy” baked goods. If they had nutritional merit there would be a different story, but muffins are as bad as doughnuts and cake. Packed to the brim with artificial oils, bleached white flour and enough sugar to make your dog sick, you definitely want to pass on this cafeteria favorite.

10. Kid-targeted yogurt

All nutritional value is compromised in this long-standing favorite due to the obscene amount of sugar, artificial colors and other additives. The best way to go here is purchasing regular, “adult” yogurt and stirring in a natural fruit preserve or a comparable jam.

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