Between encouraging picky eaters, dishing out afternoon snacks, and snagging "just a couple" fries from that drive-thru meal, you probably end up eating as much off your kid's plates as they do, if not more. And although kids' snacks are packaged in the most convenient way possible, they're not convenient for your health—or your child's health, for that matter. Since your metabolism isn't quite at the place your kid's is anymore, it's time to leave these sugary, fattening culprits at the playground.
Why it's tempting: It's yogurt, so it can't be that bad...right? Plus, it's so conveniently purse-sized.
Why You Should Resist: Gogurt is basically sugar milk, and we'd be surprised if any probiotics still survive in those little plastic tubes. "Sugar and corn starch are the second and third ingredients [in Gogurt] - the higher up on the list an ingredient appears, the more it makes up each spoonful," says Cynthia Sass, MPH, RD, author of S.A.S.S! Yourself Slim: Conquer Cravings, Drop Pounds and Lose Inches.
What to snack on instead: Ditch the tubes and "reach for plain organic nonfat yogurt," Sass says. "If you need a sweetener you can add honey or maple syrup and control how much you add." If it's the easy eating your kids (and you) crave, transfer the yogurt to molds and freeze until slightly solid.
Why it's tempting: Handfuls of brightly colored crunchies are so easy to grab from your kid's snack bag while you're prepping school lunch – and before you know it, you're filling up a bowl for yourself.
Why you should resist: One little square made from processed grains and coated with sugar probably raises your blood glucose more than an actual sugar packet. "Most sugary cereals are made from refined grains that have been stripped of their fiber and nutrients, along with one if not more than one form of refined sugar," says Sass. And throwing in vitamins doesn't cut the damage, so don't be fooled by that advertisement on the box.
What to snack on instead: Sass recommends unsweetened, whole grain puffed cereals, with cinnamon or bananas added to give a little life.
Why it's tempting: When it's time to drive the neighborhood carpool to school and you've barely run a comb through your hair, you don't have the time or inclination to make something else for breakfast.
Why you should resist: You may as well eat a cardboard rectangle for all the nutritional value you're getting. And honestly, it wouldn't taste that different. "In addition to being made with refined white flour that's been stripped of its nutrients, these also contain sugar, corn syrup, and artificial preservatives. The added vitamins and minerals don't even come close to canceling out the unwanted ingredients," says Sass.
What to snack on instead: Use your toaster for something more nutritious. "Go for a slice of toasted whole grain bread, spread with almond butter and sliced fresh fruit—or 100% fruit spread," says Sass.
Why it's tempting: Quick-cooking noodles topped with that familiar bright orange cheese remind us of childhood, come in the shape of cartoon characters, and—it must be said—are incredibly delicious. What's not to love?
Why you should resist: Do you really want to eat "cheese" that has been sitting in a box in powder form for who knows how many months? "One-third of a box contains almost 600 mg of sodium—that's a quarter of the recommended daily cap," says Sass.
What to snack on instead: Opt for whole-wheat macaroni with chopped veggies and fresh-grated organic Parmesan, advises Sass. Then try to convince your child that Disney character shapes do not affect quality of taste.
Why it's tempting: They're "made with real fruit," aren't they? Just conveniently flattened into a sheet and wrapped in plastic.
Why you should resist: Not all fruit snacks are created equal. "Some are made with dried fruit mixed with sweeteners, while others may be made with 100% real, unsweetened fruit," notes Sass. Here, the key is to scour the ingredients list.
What to snack on instead: "Look for fruit snacks made with real fruit with no added sugar and nothing artificial, from colors to preservatives," Sass says. Or—you knew it was coming—bite into a piece of fresh whole fruit instead.
Why it's tempting: Who makes just one hot dog at a time? If that's what your kid requests for lunch, chances are that's what you'll be having too.
Why you should resist: Where do we start? "Preserved meats like hot dogs contain nitrites, which are linked to an increased cancer risk," Sass explains. Then there's the high saturated fat content, which sabotages both your heart and your waistline. Add in a refined-flour bun and a generous squirt of sugary ketchup, and this is one lunch you can't afford to repeat very often.
What to snack on instead: If finger foods have as much appeal for you as for your kids, try chicken breast strips coated in whole grain breadcrumbs or crushed cereal. Preservative-free turkey jerky strips are another option.
Why it's tempting: Plain old water gets so boring—and these often come in six-packs, so it's all too easy to rip off an extra one.
Why you should resist: Don't let the smiling, dancing apples fool you. "This is similar to the fruit roll-ups situation," says Sass. Just take a look at where fruit shows up on the ingredients list of most brands. We bet it's not at the top.
What to snack on instead: Look for juice boxes that contain 100% fruit juice, preferably organic, with nothing artificial. Or better yet, go for real fruit.
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