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12 Foods You Need To Stop Feeding Your Children Now and 12 Healthier Alternatives

By Devan McGuinness |

It can be so hard balancing the desire to have your kids eat the best of the best food with their picky eating and our busy schedules. I am a firm believer that diet plays a huge role in the way our kids act, grow and perform in school. It is one sure way we can help our kids grow to their full potential and ensure they get a great, healthy start at life.

I totally get that kids may not be as on-board with a healthy diet as we hope, but there are some foods that are just not even almost good for our kids. Sure, there is no harm in moderation — having the unhealthy foods is fine once in a while, but they should not be a staple in your family’s diet. Last week I shared the super foods our kids should be eating now to provide the best bang for our buck. The other side of that coin is getting our kids to eat foods they enjoy — that are also healthy for them.

Usually with just a little bit more time, a few extra ingredients, and swapping out some things here and there, there are ways we can keep our kids happy and interested in their food, helping to foster a healthy diet and healthy eating habits.

Click to view the 12 foods your kids need to stop eating now & their 12 healthier alternatives:

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12 Worst Foods and 12 Healthier Alternatives

Frozen Waffles

Frozen waffles hold little to no nutrients for breakfast. They're usually high in sugar and low in fiber; there is no way that will get your kid to lunchtime.
Healthier Choice: A generous bowl of oatmeal will provide more long-lasting energy. Add berries for a sweet touch!
Try Farro Oatmeal!
Photo Credit: photostock

:: What is your child’s favorite healthy meal? ::

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About Devan McGuinness


Devan McGuinness

Devan McGuinness is the writer of the lifestyle website byDevan. After surviving 12 miscarriages, Devan founded Unspoken Grief, a resource and support site for perinatal and neonatal loss. Read bio and latest posts → Read Devan's latest posts →

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29 thoughts on “12 Foods You Need To Stop Feeding Your Children Now and 12 Healthier Alternatives

  1. mnv says:

    Most of these things my daughter wont even touch, and there are healthier ways to make the ones that she will. My little one is still just that, little. So she does need a little more calorie intake.I dont use the kraft mac n cheese, i use more natural brands. You can always make your own fries in the oven. Forbid them from having soda, if theyve never had it they wont get a craving for it. Get the more natural kind of cereals, food dyes have been proven to cause hyperactivity in children. Chicken strips can always be made healthier and tastier than their more processed counterparts.

  2. cheylene says:

    Kashi waffles have 7 whole grains and lots of fiber, my daughter doesn’t even notice the difference and they are quick and easy!

  3. jackie saenz says:

    eggo has the new whole wheat whole grain waffles. i think theyre really tasty but with the butter and syrup it does turn into a sugary breakfast but i think life everything else in moderation.

  4. Nicole says:

    I don’t know why, but she loves Qunioa! Breakfast lunch and dinner if she’s being picky. Usually its breakfast. Quinoa, banana and 6 % plain yogurt.

  5. Lisa W says:

    Do kids really eat that stuff regularly? My son turns 6 next week. Very limited budget, but healthier food is a budget priority as much as it can be. As mentioned elsewhere, there are plenty of ways to make some of these more reasonable options. Here’s how the list looks for us:

    1. Frozen Waffles (we get high-fiber or whole grain version and top w/peanut butter & fruit, served with milk or yogurt)
    2. French Fries (very rare for us)
    3. Soda (rare – maybe 1x/mo)
    4. Sugary cereal (very rare – more likely Total cereals, raisin bran, corn flakes, Kashi, etc.)
    5. Canned soup (rare)
    6. Hot Dogs (we get turkey dogs w/o nitrates/nitrites on ww bun)
    7. Chicken nuggets (rare – maybe 1-2x/mo)
    8. Potato chips (rare – pretzels or baked tortilla chips more likely 1-2x/wk)
    9. Ranch dressing (never – we both dislike)
    10. Bologna lunchables (really? never.)
    11. Ketchup (totally not giving up, either of us – but we do get w/o HFCS)
    12. Macaroni & Cheese (from the box, never – use high-protien/high-fiber pasta, real cheese & milk)

  6. Erin says:

    food dyes have not been “proven” to cause hyperactivity. not saying they are good, but still.

  7. liz says:

    i agree with erin. food coloring has NOT been Proven for hyperactivity. my son eats some of that stuff but he also prefers a head of brocoli over chicken nuggets and he loves his cucumbers over potato chips…. he loves HOMEMADE pancakes and waffles. no honey no butter no sugar no maple syrup. just a plain waffle!!! sometimes with fruit. my son is 18 months and his 10x healthier in his eating habits then his 2 and 3 year old friends that he goes to day care with!!! he doesnt like sugary cereal either he prefers his simple hearts from cheerios brand!!!
    hates ketchup and ranch and so do i so we are covered!!!

  8. artistschmartist says:

    If you make a big batch of homemade waffles (using high protein, high fiber multigrain flour,) they freeze perfectly in a ziploc bag w/ a piece of parchment paper between each one – It’s just as convenient to pull out of the freezer, into the toaster, and spread with natural peanut butter. If your kid is a chicken nugget-aholic, try mixing canned tuna or salmon with whole wheat breadcrumbs, eggs, and spices and making fish nuggets. Homemade low-fat turkey meatballs are usually a hit at our house, and I do the waffle method with them, too. (Make a big batch and freeze in a bag so I can pull out a couple mini meatballs for lunch and heat in 30 seconds.)

  9. Jen says:

    My daughter LOVE turkey deli slices and cheeses, sometimes on bread, sometimes not. I know lunch meat is high in sodium, but can you tell me if there is a (very) similar alternative to turkey lunch meat that is better for her?


  10. Ashley says:

    I feel like this list doesnt make a lot of sense.
    I understand why these things are bad, but I dont think the substitutions make much sense.
    We love cereal (my significant other and myself) and we love eggs… but they arent the same thing. The cereal we buy isnt full of sugar (he reads the ingredients list on EVERYTHING) so I am not worried about it. I am breastfeeding so I eat lots of eggs for the protein. But its not the same as cereal so I dont think its a viable substitution if you are looking for something crunchy and cold. Eggs are completely opposite, they are soft and warm. I just dont think it made sense to compare them. The same with waffles and oatmeal. I make our own waffles and I make them with wheat flour and no sugar, I use honey instead and only egg whites. Sometimes I make them WITH oatmeal. But oatmeal in place of waffles? noway. I enjoy oatmeal and usually have it 3 times a week, but its not a replacement, its a whole separate thing.
    We dont use ketchup (we like mustard), and we dont drink soda often (maybe one root beer every couple months), but I do love my ranch dressing. I only use half a serving of it on my salads because I know its not good, but its a small indulgence. We dont eat bologna, or chips usually (or at least I dont, but I am known to munch on some pretzels) but we do love mac n cheese. I would love to make my own mac n cheese whenever I can, but its a bit time consuming so I settle for buying some. I dont remember what else was on the list but… yeah.
    I think the idea of this list is great, but honestly I think the substitutions shouldve been more closely related to the thing they are supposed to substitute.

  11. Jo says:

    I find this list sad and funny at the same time… there are stuff on there that don’t sound remotely edible – and they’re not even an issue in Europe because they don’t exist. For instance the mac&cheese thing blows my mind… why it’s necessary to make such an artificial combination to replace a process as simple as boiling some pasta and putting some form of cheese on it. I can’t even imagine in what proportion that Kraft thing even is cheese.

    I’m grateful I was raised in a world where things are made from scratch – my mom makes her own ketchup, with tomatoes, basil, garlic etc. she grew. that’s not a possibility for everyone, but swearing off ketchup because companies choose the cheapest way out is silly. Kids don’t need to be on a diet, they just need to be offered tasty AND healthy alternatives.

  12. Kristi says:

    @ Jo because in America the rich and yuppy think eating hummus etc is the COOL thing to do. Half the stuff they are buying stating “organic, all natural, yes even in Whole Foods” are not even what they say. Nothing in America with those labels are monitored and anyone can make a box and put that name on there. I agree with another poster who said it best everything in moderation. Next year their will be a new fad and these ladies will be stick to glue once the lead groupie in their “in” crowd says it’s the new thing for kids. My chidlren eat very healthy. I have a Asperger’s child and two over the top excelled Honors Program kids and we not a lot but at times eat Fruit Loops and their is no difference in activity. The main one is probably Soda, but come that is a no brainer teeth and health included.

  13. CR says:

    I think this list is very unrealistic. Show me a seven year old that wants kale chips. Or will even go toward hummus. While kids are all different, the thought that hummus would be appealing is completely absurd. It’s mushy, odd color, and has a strange smell. All things that kids hate. While I can’t argue against soda, chips, and fries being left for moderation, things like avoiding ketchup and ranch are unreasonable. They are fighting things that aren’t worth the battle.

  14. ER says:

    I showed this list to my 8 year old and she cracked up. While some of the suggestions are decent (grilled chicken instead of chicken nuggets) some make no sense whatsoever. Seriously, who subs hummus for ketchup? That doesn’t even make sense. And what the sam howdy is coconut water? My kids would pick plain water before that!

  15. Suzette says:

    my kids are grown and I am reading this for my daughter-in-law and after reading some of your comments I just wanted to say that I think some of you are missing the point..sure it would be hard to take those things away and replace them with the suggestions made here…but that is AFTER the fact that you have already begun feeding these things to your kid…I think that the real point of this is to tell you things you should “never” feed them to “begin” with and what you should feed them instead…it is a lot easier to deny them a soda, per say, if they never had one to begin with…yes?? and even if you don’t use the “swap” methods suggested here for the kids already eating these things, you have still been made aware of things you should just take away period.

  16. Catarina says:

    Thank God I live in a tropical country where we find coconut water on ever corner!(Brazil) If any of you ever travel below the Equator please do try it. I think the substitute for SODA should have been FRUIT JUICE with very little or no sugar. At my house we only have a soda maybe on sunday lunches or even at a birthday party. There are so many fruits from which you can make juices, deserts, jams, smoothies, or simply mix with plain yogurt. I don’t see why putting some fruit with yogurt in a blender isn’t fast and easy and good for breakfast along with whole wheat bread.

  17. Catarina says:

    Oh, sorry to say this but I lived some long years in the USA and in my opinion the oatmeal made there is terrible. It may be my personal taste but I knew many kids at my school that hated oatmeal.

    Try putting one cup of milk, sweetened a little, and two full table spoons of oats. Stir in the pan at a low fire until in begins to thicken. Serve and sprinkle powdered cinnamon on top. It is very creamy and very delicious (my kids and my husband just love it and will eat it everyday I make it). Hope you like it!

  18. Stoich91` says:

    @ER OMGORSH you comment was hilarious, “What the sam howdy is coconut water” bahahaha I haven’t touched soda for years, but I can honestly vouch that coconut water (or at least the large majority of widely available varieties) are in NO WAY a taste substitution for soda (tastes like dirt, honest to goodness). Yup, frozen waffles are bad. But they’re quick, tasty and get us out of the door in the morning…you got something (sans soggy oatmeal with fresh berries…uhhh…right?) that can logically rival the smell of sweet Eggos and/or the sugar rush of Froot Loops in the early morning, and I’ll hear you out. This should’ve been called “12 cr*ppy foods you’re already eating and 12 better foods you probably should be” hahaha sans coconut water, natch!

  19. Jen says:

    I just made my 18 month old daughter’s lunch for tomorrow and just cleaned up after dinner. I think in the past 24 hours she’s had everything on the ‘good’ list, and as of yet has never had any of the ‘bad’ foods. She loves quinoa, avocado (have it almost daily), all kinds of beans (black beans, chickpeas, cannellini beans), lentils, broccoli, kiwi…I think as another poster mentioned it’s not hard for kids to like these foods when it’s all they’ve been offered-the trick is when she gets exposed to other kids when she gets older and sees them eating chicken nuggets, bologna, etc. Those foods are engineered to make them addicting-they are delicious (well, a lot of the bad foods are) so if that’s all a kid eats it’s going to be a very hard sell getting them to go from fruit loops to quinoa flakes for breakfast. While in theory I believe everything in moderation….but our american diets are so chock full of unhealthy, processed, nutrient poor foods that what we consider moderate our grandparents would have scoffed at-my mom said growing up a snack was a half sandwich (not a ‘go-cart’ or a cupcake or pretzels) and a treat was like once a week, not daily.

  20. Jen says:

    Oh-forgot to mention, my daughter also loves hummus. I make a batch of chickpeas at least once a week (have some on the stove right now) and some are made into hummus…she likes it, so hopefully she will when she’s 8 as well, it won’t be a foreign, yucky food to her as she’s been acclimated to it. However, I do agree it’s not a worthy substitute for ketchup!

  21. Brandi says:

    As I am reading through alot of these comments I notice parents balking at the idea that healthier options are just unrealistic. That’s very discouraging. Seems that kids mirror their parent’s eating habits. If you eat unhealthy foods, you introduce them to your children and then they develop tastes for these foods.
    Presenting them with healthier options is not hard, after all… It’s the parents who decide what the child eats and when certain foods are introduced to them. Generally speaking, if parents are unhealthy or picky eaters, their offspring will be also. They learn what parents teach them.
    My 2 year old LOVES to dip his veggies in Hummus. It’s very delicious. He hardly ever eats fast food. He loves fresh fruits (mangos and bananas are his favorites) and all kinds of veggies (Asparagus, squash, tomatos, onions, bell peppers, celery, etc.) prefers milk & water, has NEVER had soda, and will eat whatever healthy meal I serve my family. He eats what is prepared for him. He knows no different way exists. His only vice would be he’s not a big meat eater (but, case in point, neither am I) but he loves any kind of “Jumping Bean” (his cute little term for all beans, lol) So both of our diets are supplimented with extra sorces of protien.

  22. JS says:

    That awesome moment when the only one of these you and your family like are potato chips :)

  23. lcb says:

    I was raised on an ‘everything in moderation’ way of living. My mother is a fabulous cook, and I have tried many different varieties of food…so have my children. Out of the 8 people living in this house only 1 likes sweet potato fries. We do prefer salads over fries-all 4 of my children and my 2 step children prefer salad filled with fresh veggies. And, OMGosh…some of us even put a little ranch dressing on it now and then! We eat whole grain bread, but yes, sometimes they would like a frozen waffle for breakfast! Some mornings they have oatmeal, sometimes a scrabbled egg, sometimes even a bowl of cereal that makes the ‘bad list’. My point here is everything in moderation has raised myself and my brother to both very healthy and active adults. That is the same way that I am raising my kids. Do I feed my kids KD and hot dogs everyday? Of course not, but if they want some KD for lunch once a month, then by all means they will get some KD for lunch with a side of carrots and dip. My children are very healthy eaters, and they love a lot of variety. We don’t encourage dipping everything is anything, and I do make a homemade ranch dressing when I can, but sometimes with 2 working parents, president of the PAC, 6 children is about 10 activities they get a waffle for breakfast! Follow that up with a yogurt tube and an apple…you are being sent to school on a full tummy!

  24. X.O. says:

    I completely agree with you Jo! It’s not only realistic, but easy to make sure your kids are eating healthy! My husband and I also make sure to have healthy meanls throughout the day therefore my children think it’s a normal way of eating. They think it’s weird to see so much junk and processed foods at their friends’ houses! We need to remember we eat to nourish our bodies. There are no “food comas” over here! We eat and we feel energized!

  25. L says:

    Your kids will start to eat healthy if it’s what they’re provided. They eat junk if it’s what’s provided. Your kids will eventually get hungry & decide to eat the healthy (lifestyle change) stuff you’re eating. Parents just don’t want to change so it’s easier if the whole family eats junk.

  26. Kelley says:

    My suggestion to those that serve these items regularly would be to try and cut back and/or healthify where possible. Some great sugguestions in the above comments. If we focus too much on what cannot be eaten, it can be a real downer for a child. Especially if it’s what they are accustom too. Eat healthier as a family. Don’t expect a child to change or give up their eating habits if your not willing to do the same. And then still be patient with them, not cutting out all their favorites altogether. You don’t want to make food too much of a battle. Meals should be anticipated and enjoyed, especially in our homes. Use wisdom to help establish healthy eating habits for your kids. Moderation as others have also mentioned is so important too! We live in a society where food is so easily accessible and readily available. Some of it’s pretty delicious but not very good for us. So to not try to educate and guide your child in healthful eating is truly a disservice. They may not be overweight with health issues now. But consider what they are being set up for down the road. People just don’t conform to healthy eating once they become adults (obviously). Many remain in the habits they developed since childhood. Abstinence from all the “bad” stuff is no fun either. Wisdom, education, role modeling, moderation!

  27. Pelin says:

    Most of the french kids are fed with these bad food. When I first came to France I was shocked! I would never give these unhealthy food to my kids. I am coming from a country where we love and make lots of vegetable food with olive oil. I feel lucky:)

  28. Rose says:

    One thing I would suggest for a sub for waffles in terms of easy and quick morning foods is homemade muffins. There are a ton of good recipes out there that use a lot of fruits and veggies in them. I typically reduce the sweetener in the recipe by 1/2 or more (they are revoltingly sweet otherwise). Our fav recipe is called Morning Glory muffins. Google it if interested. I sub the cup of oil out with 2/3 c unsweetened applesauce and 1/3 c oil and they come out amazingly, and have 4 cups of a fruit, plus eggs and nuts, in each batch. I make several batches of different kinds of muffins at a time and freeze them in those plastic shoe boxes from the Dollar store with a sheet of waxed paper in between. We don’t microwave, so the night before, I take what we will use out of the freezer, Tupperware it and voila, breakfast on the fly.

  29. Chrissy says:

    How about nothing soy? because it causes cancer, and the high estrogen levels can cause deffects in development as soon as puberty sets in. Especially harmful in males, seeing as estrogen blocks testosterone receptors that, at a young age, are programming boys for puberty. Worst is soy based baby formulas. It needs to be illegal. “Based on figures from the Swiss Federal Health Service, some of my colleagues have calculated that an infant on soy formula is getting the hormonal equivalent of the estrogen found in three to five birth control pills every day. That’s a lot of estrogen, and this amount is especially dangerous for infants whose very development requires the right hormones in the right place at the right time.” Although the boy will grow normally according to height/weight standards throughout childhood, when he hits puberty he can develope breasts, his voice might never deepen, his huevos might never drop, and his unit may never grow. Pregnant mothers who consume soy risk their sons developing hypospadias (a condition that causes the opening of the penis to be on the underside, anywhere from the tip to the crotch). In which case you might as well just damn your child to a sex change or the clergy, and kiss any dreams of grandchildren goodbye.. In women the extra estrogen may cause cancer, heavier more painful menstrual cycles, breakouts, deeper voices, facial hair, infertility, hypothyroidism and weight gain, and low sex drive. Soy used to only be fed to livestock in America. They only started making it into “people food” because livestock fed soy would develope chronic and very serious reproductive problems and a general lack of health, causing them to be virtually worthless, thus causing a huge excess of soy. If something is too harmful for the animals we slaughter, why is it okay to feed children? Infants no less! Well because the soy industry has spent millions upon millions of dollars convincing you that soy is an upscale health food, when all it is a super cheap filler. As their marketing guru so wisely said “the fastest way to get poor and middle class people to accept a product is to have it consumed on its own merit ” (Before this the excess soy was only really being made into things like discount dogfood, and food for the poor, and hippies were the only people stupid enough to purchase it willingly) Now soy is found in over 60% of products on grocery store shelves. Since its hiding just about everywhere now, not just in tofu and such, your daily soy intake can really add up. The recommended daily “safe” amount of soy is no more than 36grams, but even that may damage thyroid. The average tofu burger? 300-400grams. So if you want to be vegetarian, find a smarter protein than soy. Basically just remember, SOY IS POISON!​free_online_article/​sports_body_training_perfor​mance_interviews/​poison_protein;jsessionid=B​EE4F45A9775A1A39CB59B419B6​CF7D2-mcd01.hydra

    ..basical​ly just summed that up, but there’s plenty more evidence supporting everything there. And keep in mind the soy industry pumps millions into pro-soy propaganda, bribing everyone from food manufacturers, chefs, dietitians, editors, and writers to the FDA, so most all of that’s pretty invalid, wouldnt you think?

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