What are you really feeding your kids?

5 common kids snacks and their healthy alternatives

It’s easy when packing lunchboxes and fixing after-school snacks for children to reach for the most convenient pre-packed option — especially as they tend to be cheap, available in bulk, and undeniably fast, requiring little or no preparation time. But do you really know what’s really in the ‘child-friendly’ foodstuffs available on the market today?

Avoid feeding your kids foods high in fat, sugar, salt and additives

Often these snacks are high in fat, sugar, salt and additives, and low in health-giving vitamins, minerals and fiber — and so a diet based around these foods could negatively affect your child’s health.

To find out what you’re really feeding your children and to find out what great, healthy alternatives are available, check out realbuzz.com’s following table of five common snacks for kids, in which we tell you what’s actually in the foods, and offer you some healthy (and quick!) alternatives.

Snack 1: Cheese strings
The problem: Contain nearly a quarter fat, most of which is saturated. Also contain additives, butter and salt.
The alternative: Try ‘real’ cheese! A little mature cheddar on some wholewheat crackers with some fresh tomato and basil will provide calcium, fiber, and the antioxidant lycopene.


Snack 2: Crisps
The problem: These can be as much as one-third fat, and tend to be very high in salt. They may also contain trans-fatty acids — altered oils often used in processed goods, which are potentially damaging to health.
The alternative: Try baked crisps, or make some of your own by brushing potatoes or sweet potatoes with olive oil and popping them in the oven. Unsalted unsweetened popcorn, unsalted nuts, carrot sticks or rice crackers also make good crunchy snacks, and contain health-giving substances such as monounsaturated fat (which is good for the heart) and beta-carotene (good for the eyes, skin and gut).


Snack 3: Fruit-flavored drinks
The problem: Not to be confused with fruit juice, these are essentially syrups containing fruit flavors or extracts and additives. They are high in sugar and low in nutrients, and can contribute to tooth decay. One brand lists its main ingredients as: two types of refined sugar, 2 per cent fruit juice, and a type of vegetable oil!
The alternative: Fruit juice (diluted with water if necessary). While these are also high in sugar, these sugars are packaged in amongst a range of vitamins and minerals. Also, one glass of fruit juice counts as one portion towards a child’s five-a-day fruit and vegetable target. Be aware, however, that five glasses of fruit juice is not an adequate substitute for a child’s five-a-day!

Semi-skimmed milk is also a good alternative and will provide calcium for growing bones. This is particularly important for teenage girls, who need extra calcium to prevent osteoporosis in adulthood.

Snack 4: Chocolate bars
The problem: High in sugar and fat; can also contain trans-fatty acids.
The alternative: Fruit is the obvious alternative, though realistically many children would be hard pushed to choose fruit over chocolate! So, make fruit interesting by buying different kinds and encouraging your kids to experiment. Try more exotic fruits such as mango (which you can sprinkle with lime juice or whip into a smoothie). Serve fruit with plain yogurt, and/or make fruit-based puddings or oat-based biscuits with a little less sugar than the recipe states, and add a handful of dried fruit to help sweeten the mix. As a last resort, wean your children onto dark chocolate, as it has a higher proportion of antioxidants than the cheaper milk variety, and in small portions it may keep their hearts healthy and blood pressure normal.


Snack 5: Prepared processed cheese ‘dunking’ packs
The problem: Contain fat, sugar and salt.
The alternative: Try low-fat cream cheese, hummus, or guacamole (the latter two made fresh if possible) with carrots, cucumbers, oatcakes or breadsticks to dip. A combination of these will provide calcium, fiber, and vitamin E for help in maintaining strong teeth and a healthy gut and heart.

Trying alternatives …

While the alternatives suggested here may take a little extra preparation time, the health benefits your children could reap will far outweigh the added hassle. Buying food in its natural form can also save money, as you won’t pay for unnecessary packaging and advertising. More importantly, serving children ‘real’ food will encourage them to look at food not as something that comes neatly packaged in a supermarket, but as something that requires a level of respect and thought. Also, seeing their parents cooking and preparing foods will encourage your children to do the same, thus teaching them valuable life skills which will carry them into adulthood. They’ll soon be able to whip up a meal or snack with little fuss and without reliance on pre-prepared goods!

Comments (11)

  • HAN75 'It's not the kids I'm worried about - it's myself. I'm guilty of the crisps and chocolate almost everyday and this has only proved what I've probably always known but not been willing to do anything about. Think I'll be more careful in future.'

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  • Chris_Whitehead 'I think be there'll be a lot of parents being very concerned about this - then again maybe not. Did you see those parents trying to pass through junk food to the kids at one of the schools where Jamie Oliver's food policy has been operating? It's frightening when parents can have such a blatant disregard for their kids safety.'

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  • adam_s 'It's really worrying what some kidsa are being fed these days. Thankfully things seem to be changing for the better in the school canteens , but when the kids are being sent into scholl with packed lunched full of crap that's a worry. What are the next generation going to end up like. '

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  • Dan 'I think its nonsense. As long as you are sensible with kids, a few treats wont do any harm.'

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  • juliarevitt 'When did we stop eating real food? My favourite meal as a child was a plain white roll (no butter), a packet of cheese and onion crisps, followed by a mars bar - the fact that I've made it this far is nothing short of a miracle!. I've now improved my diet and experienced what can only be described as a health revival. Just think what our children could achieve if fed healthily right from the start.'

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  • GoForIt 'I thought I was a nutrition expert, eating lots of fresh veggies and friut - low fat, low carbs etc. Until I started training heavily and still remained pudgy, tired all the time and down right grumpy. I sought professional help and saw a marked improvement in my energy level, my endurance at training, my moods and my weight. What did I do? Ditched EVERYTHING processed. No cheese, no fruit yogurt, no milk, no wheat, no alcohol - oh and no meat of course (I'm a vegetarian). And none of that processed Vegetarian "pretend meat" products that I was eating with gusto previously. Instead I'm eating tonnes of filling and delicious brown rice, nuts, seeds and tonnes of veggies. I'm going to gently wean my kids onto this because I feel a million dollars and my performance has improved dramatically. Plus - I'm a nicer person to be around. Feed your body with what it needs and it will love you back.'

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  • adam_s 'A lot of schools are also coming round to the idea of making sure kids are regularly topped up with water when in the classroom as this help with their concentration levels. '

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  • TonySmith2 'There's no real need to get all paranoid about what you are feeding your kids. Surely a little treat now and again does them no harm. It's only a real problem when they're in charge of what they are eating and spending all their dinner money on rubbish.'

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  • haveago 'I think it's no co-incidence that more and more of our kids are getting fat. Watched 'Supersize Me' recently when the guy ate nothing but McDonalds for 30 days on end. If you want to put you and your kids off them for life then watch this.'

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  • janeloewy 'Milk-packed full of hormones that cause all sorts of fertility problems, a great drink...if you're a cow, my genetic make up isn't similar to a cow in any way so why the product that the majority of the world is intolerant to should be forced down kids necks from an early age is beyond me. More calcium available in hummus, tofu, brazil nuts, sardines, tahini, green leafy veg than in cow's milk anyway so unless you like your cholesterol, spots, asthma, hay fever, fertility problems and mood swings etc...reduce or remove!!!! Just because the dairy industry needs to push their product and got it into schools years ago to reduce its surplus..should we be happy our youngsters are force-fed something that LEADS to osteoporosis (not reduces it...start researching!!) Food for thought???!!!'

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  • GoneFishin 'Basic healthy eating should be drilled into everyone from an early age!! I used to spend LOADS of time in the kitchen with my Mum and Dad, helping them make and prepare food. Breakfasts, lunches, main meals + puddings!! A lot of todays attitude towards food is ignorance. I've been well taught with regards to food... I know what to eat, what to combine to get great tasting dishes, how to season foods with the various herbs/spices that are available (not just salt and pepper!!). My food knowledge is also quite diverse and I'm familiar with foods from various cultures. Cooking and food is so interesting, but so many people are out of touch... preferring packet foods and ready meals!!!! I think more people should get back into the kitchen and get their kids to help out... it brings about a much healthier and open-minded attitude towards food. Plus there wouldn't be even HALF the obesity problems etc. Junk foods and ready meals are fine in moderation, but not as a staple part of the diet!!'

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