As a parent, you want the best for your children. You strive to provide them with a healthy diet that supports their growth and development. However, with so many processed foods marketed towards children, it can be difficult to navigate the grocery store aisles and choose foods that are truly nutritious. Unfortunately, many of the foods marketed towards children are filled with harmful ingredients that can have negative effects on their health. Below you will find some of the most common harmful ingredients found in children's food, and why it's important to avoid them. This way you'll have a better understanding of what to look out for when choosing foods for your children, and how to make healthier choices that support their long-term health and well-being.
Artificial colors and flavors are often added to children's food to make it look and taste more appealing. However, these additives have been linked to multiple health risks in children and have been banned in some countries such as Norway, Austria, Finland, France, The United Kingdom, Australia, and New Zealand. Some of the potential health risks of giving your children artificial colors include:
Some of the most common artificial colors used in children's foods to look out for include:
Instead of relying on artificial additives, parents can choose foods that are naturally colorful and flavorful, such as fruits and vegetables.
High-fructose corn syrup is a type of sweetener that is commonly found in processed foods, including many children's snacks such as:
This ingredient has been linked to obesity, type 2 diabetes, liver damage, tooth decay, and cardiovascular disease. Instead of giving children foods with high-fructose corn syrup, parents can choose natural sweeteners such as honey, maple syrup, or fruit.
Trans fats are a type of unsaturated fat that are often used in processed foods to improve their texture, flavor, and shelf life. However, consumption of trans fats has been linked to a number of health problems, particularly cardiovascular disease. Trans fats are a type of unhealthy fat that are often found in processed foods, including many types of snacks and baked goods such as:
These fats can raise cholesterol levels and increase the risk of heart disease. Parents should look for foods that are free of trans fats, such as whole grains, fruits, and vegetables.
While sodium is an important nutrient that plays a role in many bodily functions, consuming too much of it can be harmful to your child's health. Foods high in sodium can lead to several health problems like high blood pressure, kidney problems, dehydration, obesity, and cognitive issues. Many children’s foods high in sodium include:
According to the American Heart Association (AHA) children between the ages of 1 and 3 years old should consume no more than 1,000 milligrams (mg) of sodium per day. Children between the ages of 4 and 8 should consume no more than 1,200 mg per day, children between the ages of 9 and 13 should consume no more than 1,500 mg per day. For teenagers between the ages of 14 and 18, the recommended daily sodium intake is 1,500 to 2,300 mg per day, depending on their age and sex. For adults aged 19 and older, the AHA recommends consuming no more than 2,300 mg of sodium per day, and ideally aiming for an intake of no more than 1,500 mg per day.
It's important to note that many children are consuming more sodium than is recommended, often due to a diet high in processed and fast foods. Parents should look for low-sodium options when choosing foods for their children, such as fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins and avoid processed and fast foods that are high in sodium. Encouraging children to drink plenty of water and limiting their intake of sugary drinks can also help to reduce sodium intake.
Preservatives are often added to children's foods to increase their shelf life and prevent spoilage. However, many preservatives have been linked to health problems such as asthma, allergic reactions, and hyperactivity. Parents can choose fresh, whole foods instead of processed foods to avoid these harmful additives. Some preservatives commonly found in children’s food to avoid include:
If you want to reduce your child’s exposure to these harmful additives it’s best to focus on serving minimally processed foods, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats, and limiting the consumption of highly processed foods, which are more likely to contain additives and preservatives.
We want to do everything we can to ensure our children are healthy and thriving. This includes paying attention to what they eat and minimizing their exposure to harmful additives and chemicals commonly found in processed foods. By focusing on a balanced, whole foods-based diet, we can provide our children with the nutrients they need to grow and develop while minimizing their exposure to potentially harmful ingredients.
If you are struggling to plan and prepare healthy meals for your kids amidst the chaos of daily life Little Lunches is here to help you. Our meal planning app takes the stress out of meal planning by providing personalized meal plans for your kids that the whole family can enjoy. With Little Lunches, parents don't have to worry about additives or preservatives - we do the thinking, planning, and grocery list for you.
So if you're looking for an easy and convenient way to provide your child with healthy, delicious meals, try Little Lunches. Your child's health and well-being are worth it.
Bansal, R., Kim, H.R., & Suh, J.H. (2013). Differential effects of two synthetic food colors on learning and memory function. Environmental Health Perspectives, 121(6), 707-714. doi: 10.1289/ehp.1205704
American Heart Association. (2021). Sodium and kids. Retrieved from https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-eating/eat-smart/sodium/sodium-and-kids
Council on Environmental Health, Blaisdell CJ, Goodman M, et al. Food additives and child health. Pediatrics. 2018;142(2):e20181408. doi:10.1542/peds.2018-1408
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