Don’t Be Duped: Learning to Spot Junk Food Disguised as Healthy Choices

It’s not always easy being a kid. You aren’t big enough to do all the things you want to do, you have more homework than you know what to do with, and to top it all off, junk food companies often try to trick you into believing their foods are healthy! That’s right, in efforts to get you and your parents to buy their products, companies use bright colors and tricky language to get you to believe their products are healthier than they really are. Thankfully, you’re a smart little cook who can’t be duped. Watch out for these junk foods disguised as nutritious choices. 


1. Gummy Snacks. With pictures of fruit on the box, fruit flavored gummies trick you into thinking you’re actually eating fruit. In reality, most fruit gummies have, at best, a splash of fruit juice included in their list of ingredients. The majority of their ingredients include things like sugar, high fructose corn syrup, food dye, and more. A better choice would be fresh fruit or, if you’re craving that gummy texture, unsweetened dried fruit. 


2. Cheese Crackers. Cheese crackers often come in cute shapes that make them fun to eat, but unfortunately, those snack crackers are often loaded with sodium and artificial flavors. Their bright orange color and rich cheesy flavor are usually made in a lab. If you’re looking for a healthier option, go for the real deal and pair a slice of cheese with a few whole grain crackers.


3. Juice Boxes. Juice boxes seem like a healthy alternative to sodas because of the brightly colored label covered in pictures of fruit. However, many have just as much added sugar as a soda! If you’re craving a beverage with a twist of fruity flavor, try slicing up some lemons, limes, and orange slices and letting them soak in a pitcher of water. Yum! Just make sure you get an adult to help you with the knife!


4. Breakfast Cereals. Marketers love to get your attention with cartoon characters and bright images on their box, but most cereals marketed towards kids are loaded with sugars and refined grains (which means they lack whole grains!). These cereals might be tasty, but they’ll have you feeling pretty sluggish later on in the day. If you really love cereal in the morning, aim for varieties with a lower sugar content (less than 5 grams per serving). Consider tossing some berries and nuts into your cereal to increase it’s fiber and protein content. Another great, low sugar option is oatmeal. This breakfast is just as easy to make as cereal, and is packed with fiber and whole grains!


5. Granola Bars. More like candy bars! Don’t fall for milk chocolate, marshmallows, and sugary syrup being labeled as a healthy snack. While granola is a whole grain and can be a part of a healthy snack, try making your own so you can control how much sugar is added. Take a look at this recipe here! This granola can be paired with nuts and unsweetened dried fruit, or used as a topping for Greek yogurt!


6. Premade Lunch Kits. Along with the convenience of meat, cheese, and crackers, you’re also getting lots of sodium and preservatives. For a healthier on-the-go lunch option, fill up a bento box with fun foods, like: whole grain crackers, low sodium deli meat slices, hard boiled eggs, berries, fresh cut veggies, hummus, etc.