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17 Most Unhealthy Foods For Kids: What To Avoid And What To Give Instead

Providing your child with the most nutritious and well-balanced diet is as important as anything and plays a central role in their growth and development. As a parent, you are naturally aware that including vegetables, fruits, whole grains etc. can make your child's diet a healthy one and giving them too much sugar, salt, carbonated drinks can negatively impact their health, not just momentarily but also in the long run.

Today, we will look at some of the unhealthiest foods you should not give your child and what you can give instead of those foods.

Top Worst Foods For Kids

Kids love junk food. Any kid would choose a sugar candy over fruit or a vegetable. As parents, you are responsible for feeding your child healthy and well-balanced food. Here is a list of all the foods you should avoid giving your kid.

The article includes the following:

1. Unhealthy Food For Kids
2. Healthy Alternatives To Unhealthy Foods For Kids
3. Health Problems Caused By Unhealthy Foods In Kids


1. French Fries

This popular snack is commonly eaten with high-sugar sauces like ketchup, inviting double the trouble. Several studies have linked French fries directly to weight gain and the risk of obesity in young children [1].

Instead of French fries, try potato wedges, roasted potatoes, sweet potato fries etc.

2. Fruit Snacks

No, fruit snacks do not mean fruits as snacks but snacks that are purely made out of sugar (corn syrup/concentrated fruit juice), artificial flavours and colours, and basically nothing nutritious or beneficial for your child's body and health [2]. Examples of fruit snacks include aam papad, fruit jelly etc.

Instead of artificial fruit snacks, give your child actual fruits as snacks.

3. Sugary Cereals

A bowl of cereal, although is a better option than many other breakfast items, tend to be high in sugar and low in filling macronutrients like protein and fibre. More than 90 per cent of the cereal brands aimed at children have almost no nutritional benefits and contains sugar and carbs [3][4].

For healthier alternatives, choose foods such as oatmeal, chia pudding or yoghurt.


4. Sweetened Sodas/Juices

The negative health effects of soda and other sugary beverages such as processed fruit juices are no secret. Continuous consumption of these drinks can increase your risk of diabetes, obesity, fatty liver, and metabolic syndrome [5]. Soda can cause tooth decay and digestion problems in kids.

Instead of sweetened sodas and artificial fruit juices, give freshly home-made juices, that are not just tasty but also healthy for the child [6].

5. Granola Bars

The word granola may confuse any parent into thinking that it is actually healthy. While some granola bars could be healthy (low/no sugar and no added preservatives), most granola bars available at supermarkets are more desserts than healthy snacks as they are packed with sugar, saturated fat, high fructose corn syrup and artificial sweeteners.

Instead of granola bars, give your child fruits or make sure to read the ingredients before buying the snack.


6. Honey

If your child is below the age of one, avoid giving them honey. Natural honey is healthy but that is not the case for store-bought honey which contain spores that can cause foodborne botulism (a rare and potentially fatal illness caused by a toxin produced by the bacterium Clostridium botulinum) and the symptoms include dry mouth, vomiting, paralysis, and breathing problems [7].

For infants, try mashed fruits. For kids older than one year, you can give natural honey. Try organic brands or from stores that procure fresh honey.

7. Instant Noodles

The nation's assumed 'favourite food' is not good for kids. Constant consumption of instant noodles is not safe for adults too, however, it is a tad bit worse for the young ones. Instant noodles are low on nutrition and contain large quantities of sodium. As children between the ages of two and three should have no more than 1,000 milligrams of sodium per day, it is best to avoid or limit consumption to once or twice a month [8].

Instead of instant noodles, you can make noodles from vegetables by thinly slicing them.


8. Sports Drinks

Just like the sodas and fruit juices mentioned before, sports drinks do no good to your child's health. When compared to store-bought juices and sodas, energy drinks are worse as they contain stimulants and a high amount of sugar.

Try freshly homemade juices instead of sports drinks.

9. Cheese

Naturally, limited consumption of cheese is said to be a healthy habit as the dairy product contains a good amount of protein and calcium. However, when it comes to your young child, limit the consumption as a slice can contain over 100 calories and 10 grams of fat, increasing the risk of obesity and other health problems [9].

Infants and young children should avoid blue cheese and other mould-ripened soft cheeses.


10. Microwave Popcorn

A favourite snack among children, microwave popcorn can contain dangerous chemicals which seep into the food from the covers when being microwaved. These bags can release perfluorinated chemicals, which emit compounds in the process that can be potentially harmful to children's development and are even linked to cancer [10].

Instead of using a microwave, make popcorn by heating corn kernels on the stove-top - all you need to do is to add a bit of oil.

11. Processed Meat

From hot dogs to chicken nuggets, avoid processed meats in your child's diet. Not only are these foods rich in sodium but hot dogs also pose the risk of choking in children [11]. Also, eating 50 grams of processed meat a day increases the risk of colorectal cancer by 18 per cent [12].

A healthy alternative to processed meat-based foods is fish-based foods.


12. Chewing Gum

Chewing gum, candies and lollipops are all kid favourites and that is simply because they are extremely sugary and has no health benefits at all. Foods such as candies and lollipops can cause cavities, stomach problems and even choking [13].

Instead of these sugary foods, try giving your children vegetables as snacks, like carrots, cucumbers etc.

List of other foods bad for kids include the following:

  • Pizza
  • Ice cream
  • Potato chips
  • Broiled foods (chicken from brands such as KFC etc.)
  • Pastries and cookies
  • On A Final Note...

    The foods aforementioned in this article share the similarity, that is, they are all unhealthy, especially for your younglings. These foods can cause tooth decay, digestion issues, increase the risk of obesity and so on. When feeding your child, choose wisely and carefully.