While driving to work the other morning, I heard the radio DJ announce that there was a certain restaurant that doesn’t serve ketchup to individuals over the age of 10. Of course it was a steak restaurant and we all know the unspoken rule that you should never have to order ketchup when having a good steak. As comical as this was, it got me thinking… “Shouldn’t there be a list of other foods we should stop eating after the age of 10?” Here is where my thoughts took me.
- Lucky Charms and other “kid-friendly” cereals: This sugar-sweetened, low-fiber cereal may taste great, but it may require three bowls to fill you up. Plus, consuming this amount of simple carbs in one sitting will not only spike your insulin levels in the morning, it will often lead your body to crave more carbs later on in the day.
- Spaghetti Os: This canned spaghetti meal became famous in the 1960s and it hasn’t lost any popularity points since. While the low-fat nature of the pasta may seem appealing, don’t be fooled by the fact that you are really just eating a can of processed carbs. Besides, who really wants to eat pasta that was canned 5 years ago?
- Chicken Nuggets: This is a powerhouse in the diets of most American children, yet still quite appealing to most adults. One of the biggest downfalls when it comes to chicken nuggets is the fat content. Good, healthy sources of fat can be a part of anyone’s diet, but this is referring to the fats found in nuts, seeds, avocados, oils…not the ones from these little chicken bites. The other negative side of chicken nuggets is the fact they are very processed when compared to a natural piece of chicken.
- Mac n Cheese and Hotdogs: I can recall one summer where I had this meal almost every day for lunch. When you put two processed foods like this together, you get high carbs, high fat (not the good kind), and high sodium. While this meal is simple to make, it is quite low in nutrients and often displaces opportunities to consume fruits and veggies.
- Lunchables: The always-classic Lunchable is of course the meat, cheese and cracker combo. However, this has also been expanded to include nachos, tacos, and make-your-own pizza kits. The ones targeting older-aged children generally include a sub sandwich, chips and Capri Sun. Again, the main problem is that all of these food items are highly processed. Sugar-sweetened beverages and high-sodium sides are replacing nutrient-dense fruits and vegetables.
While many of these foods may bring back some fond memories of your childhood eating habits, the bottom line is that they are very poor sources of nutrients, regardless if you are an adult or child. Just because we don’t consume most of these items as adults doesn’t necessarily make them appropriate for our kids, especially since childhood obesity rates are at an all-time high.
A few simple tips for helping your children form better eating habits and becoming healthy adults:
- Pack water bottles instead of Capri Suns or juice boxes for beverages in lunch boxes.
- Include at least one fruit and one vegetable in all lunches. Try to keep your starches to just one item per meal (bread, crackers, potatoes, pretzels, cereal, granola bar, pasta).
- Choose snacks that include a protein component: cheese, cottage cheese, nuts, peanut butter, Greek yogurt. Even better, pair the protein with a fruit or veggie serving: cottage cheese + pineapple, peanut butter + celery, cheese stick + grapes.
- Limit consumption of meals that come from a box and practice making more meals from fresh, wholesome ingredients.
- If you do purchase packaged food items, try to choose those with 5 ingredients or less. At least be able to pronounce and understand all ingredients listed.
- Don’t purchase food from the same place you get your gas.