HKQ Kids

Say No to Processed Foods

Some of our children’s favorite snacks may be processed foods. The question is: What exactly are processed foods? Processed foods are any food that are altered in any way and that may have a lot of added artificial ingredients. They tend to contain a high percentage of sodium, fat, sugar, and other unknown ingredients to extend the food’s shelf life. The most heavily processed foods include pre-made meals such as microwave dinners, a staple food in many busy households. Although these foods are a very flavorful and convenient choice for our kids, the amount of processed foods we should be feeding our children should be limited.

Consuming large amounts of processed foods can lead to:

• Excessive weight gain
• Heart disease
• Type 2 Diabetes

Here are some things to look out for when buying food for your children:

• Look at the ingredients list before buying the food item. Shorter ingredient lists usually mean the food is less processed.
• If the ingredient lists have a lot of unfamiliar and unpronounceable names, reconsider purchasing that food item.
• Pay attention to the weights of the ingredients. The ingredients listed first will have the highest weight, and the ingredient listed last will have the lowest weight.
• Read the nutrition labels to see how many grams of sodium, sugar, fat, and fiber are in the food item. Avoid items with large amounts of sugar, fat, and sodium.

The best types of foods to feed your children are whole foods, which are products that are either in their original form or very close to it. These foods have limited added ingredients, which is why they are a healthy choice. Examples include fresh fruits and vegetables, nuts, meats, and fish. The transition from processed foods to whole foods can be challenging as kids are often set in which foods they like and which foods they don’t like. The best strategy is to start introducing a diet of more whole foods a little at a time.

Tips for switching to a whole food diet:

• Gradually switch out some of their snacks for fruits and vegetables
• Introduce a variety of whole foods to provide several options for your kids
• Encourage drinking water or other natural juices instead of highly sweetened beverages
• Prepare whole foods in a variety of ways. Kids love their food in cool shapes so get creative with how you serve their food!
• Choose one night a week where the kids are able to enjoy their favorite “unhealthy” treats
• Limit the amount of times eating out during a week

Although the process of transitioning from a diet of processed foods to a diet of more whole foods can be time-consuming, the health benefits in the end will make it worthwhile.

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