Kids are snacking more than ever, and when parents consider the nutritional content of those munchies, they should be wary of more than just the usual junk food suspects. A 2010 study of 31,000 kids, published in the Health Affairs journal, warned that school-aged children are eating an unprecedented number of snacks, and that those nibbles contribute to the growing waistlines of American youth. A stunning 98 percent of kids aged 2 to 18 snack between meals, and those mini-repasts now account for 27 percent of a child's daily caloric intake.
Unfortunately, fresh fruits and veggies are hardly the noshes of choice. Since 1977, snacks have added an average of 168 extra calories to a child's daily intake, and according to this study, most of those are derived from sugary treats, salty chips, and sweetened beverages.
Snacking might be built into a child's routine, but parents convinced they've stocked the kitchen with healthy options should rethink some of their choices. Food companies are notorious for marketing their fun sides to kids — spending upwards of $2 billion to do so each year — and their nutritious sides to mom and dad. Often, their health hype is just that.
A 2007 study by the Prevention Institute found that more than half of children's products that advertised fruit on the packaging contained no fruit at all. And a 2011 report from the same institute warned that 84 percent of products marketed as “healthier products” didn't even meet federal dietary guidelines.
So before you hit the grocery aisles, check out this roundup of some of the worst offenders: Snacks that lull parents into a phony sense of dietary discernment, while filling kids up with empty calories, saturated fats, and mystery ingredients.