15 Foods Children Shouldn’t Eat and What You Can Give Them Instead

Every year around 100 infants get sick in the US with infant botulism, an illness caused by a bacteria found in honey. It can seriously affect kids’ immune systems that are not strong enough yet. There are even more foods that we consume daily which are thought to be seemingly harmless for children, but studies have shown that they can be potentially dangerous for them.

Bright Side, after thorough research, gathered some of the most common edible things that look innocent, but can become unhealthy hazards for our precious little humans.

1. Fruit juice drinks, sodas, and sports drinks

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics’s guidelines, children under the age of one year should never drink juice, while older ones can be allowed to drink it, their consumption should be limited. Sodas and sports drinks are a “no” because of the brominated vegetable oil that they contain which can lead to bromine toxicity and affect kids’ nervous systems, skin, and memory. Additionally, both drinks contain a high amount of calories and sugar which can cause cavities and doesn’t provide any vitamins or minerals.

Alternatively, make your kids a nutritious fruit smoothie with milk or yogurt to add a milkshaky flavor or fizzy water for a homemade healthy soda-like drink.

2. Kids’ yogurt

Even though regular yogurt is a great and healthy addition in a child’s diet, kids’ yogurt is the complete opposite. The artificial colors and the sugar contained in those yogurts are really unhealthy for kids and aren’t at all beneficial. Many food dyes have been banned, while others can cause allergic reactions in kids or possibly trigger hyperactivity and other types of adverse behavior.

Instead, you can buy regular yogurt and sweeten it using honey if your kid is older than one. You can also use raisins or frozen fruit.

3. Microwave popcorn

Microwave popcorn is another famous and quick flavorful choice for kids’ snacks. However, few may be aware that the bags used in microwave popcorn can release dangerous chemicals. They contain perfluorinated chemicals, that are also used in fast-food wrapping paper, and when heated on high, they emit compounds in the process that can be potentially harmful to children’s development and are even linked to cancer.

Easily make your own popcorn by heating some kernels in a pan with a little bit of olive oil on the stove-top. It only takes about 5-7 minutes and tastes really good.

4. Honey

This might sound surprising, but honey, a generally highly-nutritious food, can be extremely dangerous for toddlers younger than one — no matter whether it’s raw or highly processed. A toxic bacteria contained in honey can cause an illness called infant botulism that affects kids’ underdeveloped immune systems and can lead to muscle weakness and breathing problems. In the United States alone 100 cases of infant botulism happen every year.

After the age of 1, kids can eat honey and it’s actually very good for them. Before that age, smashed fruits are a good option as a source of vitamins and natural sweetness.

5. Canned tomatoes or any canned food

Bisphenol-A (BPA) is a toxic element found in many packaging materials like plastic, but in higher amounts it can be detected in cans, a lot of which is also emitted in the food contained in the cans. This dangerous element can affect the development of the child, their reproductive system, and their brain, and it is also linked to cancer.

So, when you decide to make pasta with tomato sauce, look for a glass jar in the supermarket or better yet, use fresh chopped tomatoes.

6. Rice bars and rice cereal

This might come as a huge surprise since most children usually eat rice and rice-based products. According to the FDA, infants might be possibly exposed to high levels of inorganic arsenic (yes, the poisonous substance) through rice-based products like kids’ rice cereal. Because we feed them things like rice cereal, the rice intake for infants is 3 times higher than for adults, which can have an adverse effect on their learning ability and their overall development.

You can try making some fruit bars which are full of vitamins, buying cereal made of oats or quinoa, or even making your own healthy snack oat bars.

7. Low fat foods and drinks that contain aspartame

Many parents prefer artificial sweeteners for their kids as a way to avoid sugar. However, choosing “light” products that contain a substance called aspartame instead of sugar are far more dangerous. A study has shown that these compounds in foods might limit a very important enzyme in our body that prevents diabetes and obesity.

Replace artificial sweeteners with naturally sweetened foods like fresh fruits or make a delicious popsicle by freezing a fresh fruit juice or vegetables mixed with yogurt.

8. Hot dogs and processed meat

Hot dogs, and as a matter of fact any processed meat, should also be avoided. A study performed by the American Cancer Society showed that eating 50 grams of processed meat a day increases the risk of colorectal cancer by 18%. “We should be limiting red and processed meat to help reduce our colon cancer risk, and possibly, the risk of other cancers,” they announced.

A great alternative to this is fish-based products. Even with fast food, fish is a much healthier choice than meat. A burger with fish or even better a veggie burger is always a better option.

9. Chewing gum

Chewing gum is a no-no for kiddos in so many ways. First of all, because most gums contain high amounts of sugar and this can harm their teeth, causing cavities. While some of the sugar-free options might contain sorbitol, which can cause diarrhea. But what’s really dangerous is accidentally swallowing gum. This can be a choking hazard and also, if the child swallows a large piece of it or a lot of small ones continuously, it can cause a block in the digestive system.

Chewing gum isn’t at all beneficial for kids, so it’s better to avoid it completely and replace it with chewing vegetables as snacks, like carrots, cucumbers, and other healthy alternatives. If you choose to allow chewing gum, try to find the ones made with xylitol.

10. Fruit gummies

Kids might love gummies, but this is like feeding them raw sugar. There is nothing healthy about it and these snacks can give your kid a sugar rush. Studies have shown that high amounts of sugar, like the sugar contained in gummy snacks, can cause hyperactivity and aggressive and inattentive behavior in children.

The alternative here is really easy, just encourage your kids to consume real fruits instead or offer them unsweetened dried fruits.

11. Potato chips

Potato chips are for sure a salty delight for every kid, but they are not a healthy snack option. They’re high in fat, calories, and salt, all the things kids should avoid consuming because they are bad for them. Too much salt can cause several problems from hypertension or high blood pressure to kidney stones. Also, salty foods might lead to obesity, since they are as dangerous as sugary snacks.

If your kid loves potato chips — and who doesn’t really! — you can easily make your own by baking potato slices in the oven, or even better, try making sweet potato chips for a richer flavor.

12. Pizza

Take-out pizza or the frozen ones that supermarkets sell aren’t a good choice for children for obvious reasons. All those toppings, of unknown origin, with all the extra fat and salt in the cheese aren’t healthy at all. According to a medical study, fast-food addiction has become a worldwide health problem, especially among children. Doctors are trying to raise awareness that childhood obesity and diabetes has a lot to do with regular poor food choices.

What you can offer to your kids, alternatively, is homemade pizza with healthy ingredients of your choice like tomatoes, mushrooms, onions, or olives. Try to include your kids in the pizza making process which will encourage them to cook and eat at home to establish healthier habits.

13. Raw milk

Even if it is said and written that raw milk is highly nutritious and healthier than regular pasteurized milk, any unpasteurized milk can be extremely dangerous and even lethal for both kids and adults. In many cases, raw milk carries harmful bacteria, viruses, and parasites like Campylobacter, Cryptosporidium, E. coli, and Salmonella.

Feeding your kids regular pasteurized milk that is sold in any supermarket is the safest choice. Other dairy products like yogurt and even non-dairy ones like vegetables are sources that are high in calcium and can be considered options.

14. Some cheeses

Cheese is not only tasty but also high in calcium, vitamins, and proteins. However, not all types of cheese should be fed to kids. Infants and young children should avoid blue cheese and other mold-ripened soft cheeses. Those, along with others that might be made of unpasteurized milk, are risky for kids because they might carry a bacteria called listeria which causes a type of food poisoning.

On the contrary, lighter cheeses like cottage and cream cheeses, and the hard ones that are full-fat are healthy options and can be given to kids from the age of 6 months.

15. Supermarket bought ice cream

The main ingredients of regular supermarket bought ice cream are cream and sugar, and most of them contain substances called emulsifiers that have been shown to interrupt the work of the good bacteria in our stomach and lead to obesity. Also, ice cream that has melted and been refrozen is extremely unsafe because bacteria like listeria can grow in it and become hazardous for our health. Since we cannot be sure of the conservation conditions of all those cartons, we could face the risk of ice cream poisoning.

Instead, you can try making homemade ice cream or sorbet from fresh frozen fruits that are much healthier and contain vitamins. This way you definitely know where all the ingredients are coming from.

Do you know of any other interesting nutrition facts for kids or adults? What does your kid’s diet include? Let us know your healthy recipes in the comments.

Illustrated by Natalia Tylosova for Bright Side
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