We all want to give our kids the healthiest food available and make sure they have a balanced, nutritious diet. And, with so many supposedly “healthy” kids foods available in stores, good nutrition seems like a breeze. But buyer beware: many products that are marketed as healthy are actually packed with tons of sugar, sodium, artificial dyes, and other additives that are far from nutritious. We’ve rounded up the 10 unhealthiest “health” foods to avoid so you can ensure that your kiddos really are getting the best, most nutritious foods available.
Granola Bars 1 of 10Granola bars seem like a healthier alternative to cookies or candy bars, and while they do have some advantages, they can also have significantly more calories. With lots of added sugar and salt, some brands have ingredients that really don't make them distinguishable from other sweets — a candy bar is still a candy bar even if you throw in some rolled oats and nuts. For a healthier option, consider making your own granola bars with fruit and honey at home.
Make healthier granola bars at home
Flavored Organic Yogurt 2 of 10"Organic" doesn't necessarily mean "healthy." While organic food may be better for the environment, when it's got lots of added sugar, it's not much better for your body. For instance, some brands of non-fat organic flavored yogurt can have a whopping 33 grams of sugar in one 6 oz. serving. Try getting plain yogurt and adding just a little bit of honey as a sweetener, or read labels closely when purchasing.
Apple Juice 3 of 10An apple a day may keep the doctor away, but apple juice most definitely will not. With more than 100 calories and 22 grams of sugar (even if it is fruit-derived), this isn't much better than a soda. For real fruit flavor and added nutrition, make you own smoothies at home.
21 brain-boosting smoothies for kids
Image credit: Dmitry Kichenko
Fruit Leather 4 of 10Eating fruit leather is great alternative to eating actual leather, but it's a pretty terrible alternative to eating fruit. Even though the sugar is naturally derived from fruit juices, it's still sugar, and there's a lot of it — 14 grams in one little roll, not to mention additives and preservatives. For a healthier, additive-free and lower sugar alternative, make your own fruit leather at home.
Make healthier fruit leather at home
Spaghetti Sauce 5 of 10Commercial spaghetti sauces are a far cry from homemade with their added sugar and salt. Many leading brands have roughly 80 calories and 20% of your recommended daily intake of salt in one serving, not to mention 7 grams of sugar. And when you consider that few people actually limit themselves to a 1/2 cup sauce on their pasta, you could be getting almost half the salt you should eat in one day from your pasta sauce. Skip the unnecessary sugar and salt and make a simple marinara at home.
Make healthier marinara sauce at home
Turkey Breast Deli Meat 6 of 10We've all been taught that turkey breast is a great option for a healthy deli meat, but the fact is deli meats just aren't that healthful. Read labels carefully since you may be serving that "healthy" turkey up with tons of sodium (up to 19% of the adult daily value in a small serving), preservatives, and nitrates. Sidestep those nasty extras by roasting your own turkey breast and slicing it up for sandwiches.
Make roast turkey
Dried Fruit 7 of 10Dried fruit seems like an obvious choice for a quick, healthy snack, but it turns out that dried fruit is full of (naturally occurring) sugars. Even a staple like raisins has 30 grams of sugar in just over 1/3 cup serving. What's the healthier option? Prunes have less sugar than raisins, but for a truly healthy snack, stick to fresh fruits. For a fun presentation, consider making a fruit salad on a stick.
Make rainbow fruit skewers
Image: PaweÅ‚ KuÅºniar
Rice Cakes 8 of 10Rice cakes are a classic low-calorie food. But if you really want something low-calorie you'll need to stick with the unflavored variety. Some rice cake flavors can have as many as 60 calories and 4 grams of sugar per cake. For a healthier alternative, try homemade popcorn (easy on the butter!).
Make homemade popcorn
Multi-grain Cereal 9 of 10Multi-grain cereal sounds super healthy, but not all grains are created equal, especially when the main one turns out to be corn. In fact, some brands of multi-grain cereal have 6 times as much sugar, more fat, and less protein than single-grain varieties. For an even healthier, whole-grain alternative consider good, old-fashioned oatmeal with fresh fruit.
Image credit: iStock Photo
Rice Milk 10 of 10Rice milk has been a health food store staple for years, but the truth is, it isn't very good for you. One serving of rice milk is packed with added oil, 2.5 grams of fat, and 10 grams of sugar. All milk has fat and sugar, but it also has protein — and that's where rice milk falls short — it has a mere 1 gram of protein per serving. Rice milk can be a great option for those who have soy and dairy allergies and need a milk-like option, though.
Learn more about milk alternatives
Plus, check out 20 beloved kids snacks that we’ve made healthier!