Think snack foods are good for your kids?  Think again.

Most snack foods are nutrition wastelands. That’s why snack time can be so dangerous.

Here are the NuVal scores (out of 100 for top nutrition) for some of our kids’ favorites:

  • Pepperidge Farm Goldfish Original … 25
  • Nutri-Grain Cereal Bar – Mixed Berry … 24
  • Robert’s American Gourmet Pirate’s Veggie Snack with Spinach & Kale … 23
  • Nabisco Cheese Nips Reduced Fat Cheddar … 9

This may surprise you, but Garden of Eatin No Salt Blue Tortilla Chips get a score of 52 and even Cape Cod Potato Chips (40% reduced fat) get a score of 32.

So, what’s wrong with your kids eating some nutritionally deficient foods?  It’s not like they’re skipping their meals.  Well…

  • Why get your kids into the habit of regularly eating empty food?
  • Why get your kids into the habit of eating salty foods?

One small (1.5 oz) pouch of Pepperidge Farm Cheddar Crackers has 360 mg of sodium. (Click for nutrition facts.)  That is 36% of a 2-3-year-old’s recommended daily intake.

Add just 2 slices of Kraft Singles (click on any cheese for nutrition information) to the daily menu and you’ll add at least 500 mg of sodium.  Your kids will be very near their 1000 mg sodium limit.

The high sodium content of most packaged foods is the main reason kids today consume more than twice the recommended amount of sodium.

Kids who get used to salty foods don’t like the taste of less salty foods – like fresh fruits and vegetables.

  • Why teach your kids that snack is a type of food?  Instead teach them it is a time to eat.

Forgo the snack food, and give your children fruits, vegetables, and other foods such as plain yogurt for snack.  As nutritionist Marion Nestle says in her book, What to Eat:  “…[R]eserve junk snack foods for treats.”

In contrast to snack foods, apples get a NuVal score of 96 and blueberries rate a 100

Do you think it sounds boring to give your children fruits and vegetables for most snacks?

Many parents give their children Goldfish crackers every day and that’s not considered boring.  Plus, if you give your child a different fruit every day for snack, she would have enough variety to last a very long time.

The next time you reach for the snacks, ask yourself this: what do you want your children to snack on regularly when they grow up?  Chips or apples?

Remember, it’s not what you feed, but what you teach, that matters.

~Changing the conversation from nutrition to habits.~


Source: accessed 7/20/2009; product nutrition labels; Center for Science in the Public Interest: Are Your Children Overdosing on Salt?: What Every Parent Needs to Know; Center for Science in the Public Interest: Fact Sheet – Salt: The Forgotten Killer; Nestle, Marion. 2006.  What to Eat: An Aisle-by-Aisle Guide to Savvy Food Choices and Good Eating. New York: North Point Press. p. 578.