With so many food labels and so little time to really figure out the healthiest options, how can parents make the best choices for their kids?
Food labeling and marketing can be big business, especially when aimed at kids, but it can lead to a lot of confusion for parents as well as choices that may sound healthy, but really aren’t.
“… Pants On Fire”
It seems like many packaged foods have at least one healthy claim these days – high fiber, fortified with vitamins, good source of calcium, etc. And often times grocery shopping is done on autopilot, so grabbing the package with the healthy claims may seem like the easy, obvious choice. But buyer beware, making a food product like a kid’s cereal for example, with whole grains and fortifying it with vitamins and minerals, does not mean it’s healthy if it’s still 40% sugar by weight. Even a cute little leprechaun can’t make that kind of magic.
When nutrients are added to foods to make them healthier, it can be a double edged sword. Most people get a portion of their daily nutrients from fortified foods, but it can also lead to eating less whole foods which are generally a healthier choice. Eating an apple snack bar fortified with vitamins is not going to be as healthy as eating the apple. And because of advertising, many children will want the apple bar, not the apple.
Red Light, Green Light
With the average child exposed to over 600 food ads per year, many with the worst nutritional ratings, how can parents make better choices While foods with healthy claims may offer a better alternative than their counterparts, it might be time to view foods geared toward kids as a red flag instead. When picking up that package with a healthy claim, consider if there is an alternative with only one ingredient.
And remember, kids can’t eat what’s not in the pantry or refrigerator!