Let me just start by saying that I am a firm believer in moderation when it comes to eating. In our house, there are no foods that are completely off-limits. But there are many that are reserved for special occasions, and many others reserved for "once in a blue moon" occasions.
The items on this list represent the latter. They are not evil. And your child certainly won't be harmed by the occasional serving. But it's still best to limit their consumption to rare situations.
Here are some foods that children should avoid:
1. Microwave popcorn. Up until about five years ago, I had never even heard of perfluorooctanoic acid, or PFOA. It's the chemical used to line the bags of microwave popcorn so that they don't catch on fire. And while I'm a big fan of keeping flaming microwaves at bay, I'm alarmed by the fact that PFOA has been linked to cancer, postponed puberty, thyroid disease and high cholesterol in kids. Not to mention the chemicals that are used to get that "imitation butter" flavor so often found on microwave popcorn. Yuck. Steer clear of the microwave version and pop your own. Here's how.
2. Processed meats. Hot dogs, bologna, SPAM, and other forms of processed meats may sound like kid-friendly foods, but they are loaded with fat, nitrates, sodium and preservatives — all things that are very unfriendly for kids. These foods have also been found to increase a kid's risk of developing heart disease, diabetes and colon cancer. If your kids love lunch meats, opt for preservative-free varieties whenever possible. Or make your own by thinly slicing chicken or turkey at home.
3. Canned tomatoes. OK, this one may surprise you. But by now you've probably heard all about BPA, or bisphenol-A, the chemical additive found in everything from soft plastics to cash register receipts, to canned foods. The natural acidity of tomatoes means that even more BPA is leached out of cans when tomatoes are inside. BPA has been linked to childhood obesity, asthma, reproductive changes, thyroid dysfunction, diabetes, and liver problems. Bottom line: it's a chemical you want to avoid whenever possible.
4. Kids' yogurt. Yogurt is a wonderfully healthy food for kids. Kids' yogurt not so much. That's because it's so loaded with artificial colors and sugar that it negates any health benefits the original food might contain. But that doesn't mean you need to forgo yogurt altogether. Just buy the plain variety and sweeten it with frozen fruit, raisins, or honey (for kids older than 1.)
5. Sports drinks. Unless your kids are exercising heavily on a hot day, there really is no need for them to drink sports drinks. Experts say doing so may make them even less likely to choose water at other times of day because it will taste so bland in comparison. If they are thirsty, offer water. And for a great post-soccer game recovery drink, try chocolate milk — it has the perfect blend of carbs and protein to help little bodies repair and replenish.
6. Sugary cereals. There is no aisle more appealing to kids than the cereal aisle. With its rainbow of colors and variety of cartoon characters, sugary kids cereals are probably some of the most begged for foods in the supermarket. But don't fall for labeling that claims these foods are "whole grain" or contain "extra fiber." Brightly colored bit of oats or rice are not healthy, and no amount of sprayed on vitamins or extra fiber will make them so. In a recent analysis, Consumer Reports found that only Cheerios, Honey Nut Cheerios, Kix and Life were low enough in sugar and high enough in fiber to be considered good foods for kids.
Do you agree with this list? Which foods would you add or remove?
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