The Worst Foods for Kids to Eat and the Healthy Alternatives Available
Most parents are aware of the importance of the early formative years for their children. The first few years of a child’s life are setting the stage for his or her development when they are learning language and their motor, social and cognitive skills are formed.
The brain grows at its fastest rate during the first three years, during which proper nutrition is crucial to have a positive impact on the child’s developing intelligence.
A research study conducted in 2010 showed that children who ate a diet consisting of mainly processed foods at the age of 3 had measurably decreased IQ scores at the age of 8.5. Each level of increase of processed foods were the equivalent of nearly two points in decreased IQ. The opposite was shown to be true when the participants ate healthier diets.
Parents should take care when providing food to their children at home and in restaurants. Research has also shown that repeated exposure to unhealthy foods causes the taste buds to prefer such foods, making changes even more difficult as the child ages.
Other health risks associated with diets consisting mainly of snacks and processed foods include:
- Behavior problems
- Inflammatory conditions
- Autoimmune diseases
- Heart disease
While the above conditions are shocking in their own right, the National Institutes of Health have proclaimed that of the six leading causes of death in the US, four can be attributed at least in part to unhealthy diets.
The Ingredients in Processed Foods are Potentially Dangerous
Hamburgers from fast food restaurants are not the only heavily-processed foods that are questionable for a child’s diet. The bland flavor that results from processing of foods makes many food processors add potentially dangerous monosodium glutamate (MSG) to add a little flavor back in. These unhealthy food additives can also be found in:
- Chicken nuggets – contain potentially dangerous additives.
- Sodas – not only do they contain high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) but may also have aspartame and benzene.
- French fries – contain some of the worst types of fat such as genetically modified omega 6 oils (canola, corn, and soybean oils).
- Breakfast cereals – with high fructose corn syrup and modified grains that have been genetically engineered.
While some experts tend to look at diet soda as the lesser of two evils, a recent New York Daily News article related findings from a study that showed consistent consumption of diet soda could eventually lead to the same degree of tooth decay and erosion that is known to be caused by the use of crack cocaine and methamphetamines.
The report, published in the journal General Dentistry, told of a woman in her 30s who consumed two liters of diet soda every day for just three to five years and had teeth that had eroded in a similar fashion to a 51-year-old crack addict and a 29-year-old meth user.
When poor dental hygiene is paired with the highly-acidic properties found in regular and diet sodas, the result can lead to substantial decay.
Although the American Beverage Association argues that people who consume soda should be aware of its acidic nature and rinse the mouth after drinking (as well as brushing teeth twice daily), most health care practitioners disagree.
Regular and diet sodas have no place in a healthy diet and should rarely or never be given to children.
Children’s Vitamins that Contain Hazardous Chemicals
Some experts feel children’s health is put at risk through the dietary supplements available on any pharmacy or supermarket shelf. Although Flinstones vitamins are branded as the “Pediatrician’s Number One Choice,” a recent GreenMedInfo.com article reveals unsavory ingredients that could potentially have severe adverse health effects that may even warrant some time at the hospital. Produced by pharmaceutical giant Bayer, some of the questionable ingredients in this vitamin include:
- Aspartame – this ingredient converts into formaldehyde and toxic methanol in the human body. More than 40 adverse health effects of consuming aspartame can be found in biomedical literature.
- Cupric Oxide – Listed by the European Union’s Dangerous Substance Directive as a hazardous, harmful substance.
- Coal tar artificial coloring agents – Some European countries ban these agents (FD&C Blue #2, Red #40 and Yellow #6).
- Zinc oxide – Also used in sunscreens, the EU classifies this ingredient as an environmental hazard.
- Sorbitol – This ingredient has been linked to gastrointestinal disturbances such as stomach pain and can lead to more serious disorders such as irritable bowel syndrome.
- Ferrous fumarate – The iron used in Flinstones vitamins is not found in nature but is actually a toxic industrial mineral.
Optimizing Your Child’s Health
In order to provide your child with the best optimized health you can, select high-quality foods. These should include whole, locally-grown organic foods that have been minimally processed. When choosing a supplement for children, ensure the vitamin has the following:
- It is in a natural, whole food form. Best case scenario it will be certified as organic.
- Make use of third-party labs which check the supplements for raw materials, contaminants and correct dosage.
- Ensure the supplement follows industry standards for quality assurance. These can include ISO 9001, ISO 17025 and Good Manufacturing Processes (GMP) certifications.
- Validate that care has been taken in the supplement’s product, from how the ingredients are grown to the manufacturing process. Potency should be tested and quality control measures should be in place.
Your Child’s Healthy Diet Starts with You
You already know you are your child’s role model: when it comes to healthy food choices, you are the teacher. Your child will not know which foods are good for his or her body unless you instruct them.
One easy hallmark to keep in mind is the word “live” when selecting food. If a food can decompose it is a live food that is probably good for the body. Studies have shown that French fries, burgers and some buns do not decompose, even after years. These choices are not “real food” and contain way too many man-made chemicals that do not exist in natural foods.
If necessary, educate yourself when it comes to proper nutrition and learn how junk food and processed foods can hurt a healthy lifestyle. Make a point of instilling healthy habits that a child will keep for the rest of their lives. Lead by example and learn more about nutrition when you need the occasional boost.
Focus on foods that are whole: these foods are unprocessed and have not been altered from their original state. Also choose foods that were grown without the use of chemical additives, fertilizers and pesticides.
Cook food at home (avoiding fast food restaurants) and get in the habit of eating together as a family. This ritual will help to cement good eating habits at an early age and give their young bodies the nutrition they need to properly develop.
Support GMO Labeling
Labeling by the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) is a serious issue. As a parent you need to know what is in the food you and your children are consuming.
While consumers have been kept in the dark for decades regarding product ingredients, the Organic Consumers Association (OCA) and similar organizations are fighting back.
Support the GMO labeling movement and be aware of what is in your food.