We all want the very best for our kids. We carefully limit their intake of sweet treats, we monitor screen time, and we provide them with everything they need to navigate life successfully. However, many parents unknowingly fill their children up with massive amounts of sodium, sugar, and preservatives–all while believing that their kids are eating a healthy, balanced diet.
The culprit behind that unfortunate self-deception? Processed foods. While many processed foods tout themselves as being nutritious, they are actually full of the things you don’t want your kids to be eating.
Most processed foods are loaded with sodium. Food manufacturers load their dishes up with added sodium for two important reasons. First, a long shelf life requires lots of preservatives. Sodium acts as a natural preservative. Second, the longer the shelf life a food has, the more it loses its flavor.
To make up for this loss in flavor, processed food companies compensate by pumping far more sodium into their foods than you would use in a comparative homecooked meal. For the standard American, over 70% of the daily sodium intake comes from processed foods.
Lots of Added Sugar
Processed foods are also great hiding places for extra sugar. This is for the same reasons that processed foods are packed full of sodium. Sugar acts as a preservative and a flavor booster in foods that might otherwise taste a bit bland because of its long shelf life.
Sugar can even be found in foods where it is least expected, such as some canned vegetables, condiments, and savory foods. Sugar is a problem for lots of reasons. It can lead to childhood obesity, diabetes, and tooth decay. Excess sugar in your child’s diet can cause bacteria to thrive on their teeth.
High in Calories
Processed foods generally get their delicious taste from three things. We’ve already discussed two: salt and sugar. The third ingredient that makes processed foods taste so good is fat. Because processed foods tend to be high in sugar and fat they are also high in calories. On the other hand, processed foods are low in nutrients, making them very low-nutrient-dense foods. This means that processed foods are full of empty calories and are far too easy to overeat, leading to unhealthy weight gain and even childhood obesity.
Avoiding processed foods completely can be nearly impossible in today’s world of take-out and convenience foods. However, you can limit your child’s intake of processed foods by cooking most meals from scratch, limiting eating out, and packing their lunches. Remember, the habits your kids set early on will stick with them throughout their lives.
Did you enjoy reading this article? Here’s more to read: Dental Care That’s Necessary for Your Child’s Health