I hate grocery shopping. My kids are constantly ramming my ankles with the cart, running through the isles, and begging for every snack with a cartoon characters face on it. Distracted trips often make it difficult to be an informed consumer. It’s easy to rely on words like “fruit” and “cheese” to assume you are picking the healthiest option. The truth is, there are many hidden dangers, even in our favorite kid’s snacks. However, most can be spotted by their hard to pronounce names and high sugar content. Apps like Shopwell and Fooducate (which has an awesome barcode scanning option) make it even easier to sift the good from the bad. Here are eight popular kids snacks and the truth about what is in them:
WARNING: Once you know the truth, you will know forever.
1. Strawberry Frosted Pop Tarts
It hurts my heart to write this because I LIVED for Strawberry Frosted Pop Tarts in college. They were a crispy and simple toaster treat and the truth won’t destroy our memories! The truth will, however, destroy our future. These processed little pastries have 4tsp of sugar per serving, trans fats and a controversial petroleum based additive TBHQ (yummy!). According to the FDA, the amount of TBHQ in food cannot exceed 0.02% because in lab experiments it has caused paralysis and convulsions. Good looking out, FDA, says no one.
2. Nacho Cheese Doritos
The good news is Doritos contain whole grains! The bad news, this highly processed treat also contains artificial colors (known to pose a risk for hyperactivity, cancer and allergic reactions) and MSG. Although MSG is recognized as “generally” safe by the FDA, it is known to cause adverse reactions such as sweating, facial pressure or tightness, rapid, fluttering heartbeats (heart palpitations) and chest pain.
3. Rice Krispy Treats
These sweet treats contain 2tsp of sugars per serving, contains TBHQ ( controversial petroleum based additive, see above) and BHT (Butylated hydroxytoluene). BHT is an additive used to retard rancidity in oils and foods. While accepted as safe in small doses, research studies have shown it to be cancer causing in lab mice, rats and hamsters.
4. Fruit Gushers
I hate when foods with the word fruit in it disappoint me. Fruit gushers contain 3tsp of sugar per serving! That may not sound like much but researchers recently called for limiting a child’s sugar consumption to 6tsp a day.
According to Dr. Miriam Vos, an associate professor of pediatrics at Emory University and Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta and lead author of the paper: “A diet high in added sugars is strongly associated with weight gain, obesity, insulin resistance, abnormal cholesterol and fatty liver disease in children and all of these increase future cardiovascular risk.”
These seemingly innocuous yet highly processed treats also include trans-fats and artificial flavors.
5. Chips Ahoy
Chips Ahoy was a staple of my house growing up. In fact, my cousins would immediately look for these yummy cookies when visiting my mom’s house in Queens. Unfortunately, these highly processed treats contain 3tsp of sugar and industrial caramel coloring. According to Fooducate, Industrial Caramel Coloring is made from reacting sugars with ammonia and sulfites. The reaction creates 4-methylimadazole which has caused lung, liver, or thyroid cancer, high blood pressure and leukemia in lab mice and rates. In 2011, California required foods containing caramel color to be labeled as potentially cancer causing but manufactures reduced the amount of color to avoid the labeling requirements.
6. Kool Aid Jammers, Grape
Unlike their mom, my kids will never know the magic of Kool Aid on a hot summer day. This beverage not only contains artificial colors, it contains 7. 5 tsp of sugar per serving which exceeds the daily recommendation! Kool Aid also contains EDTA (Ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid) is a preservative used to retain color. As with most chemicals, usage often carries the risk of side effects. Such side effects include anemia, irregular heartbeat and insulin shock.
7. Kit Kat
These little wafers contain 5.5 tsp of sugar per serving and very high in saturated fat. According to the Mayo Clinic, saturated fat raises total blood cholesterol levels and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol levels, which can increase your risk of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes.
8. Cheez It Snack Mix
These snacks contain over 20% of the daily max of salt. A high sodium diet can increase your risk of high blood pressure. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “about 1 in 6 children ages 8-17 years has raised blood pressure. High blood pressure is a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke. Lowering sodium in children’s diets today can help prevent heart disease tomorrow, especially for those who are overweight.” These salty treats also include artificial colors and MSG and TBHQ, those yummy preservatives we discussed earlier.
About The Author
Faye McCray is an attorney by day and writer all the time. Her work has been featured on My Brown Baby, AfroPunk, AfroNews, For Harriet, Madame Noire, Black Girl Nerds, Black and Married with Kids, and other popular publications. Faye also has a number of short stories and a full length novel available for purchase on Amazon. Most importantly, Faye is a proud wife and mother to three beautiful and talented young boys who she is fiercely passionate about raising.