Pop quiz! Which of the following are you most likely to remember?
A) The name of your prom date
B) The name of your 7th-grade nemesis
Chances are, it’s one of the first two, right? Who remembers algebra?
The point is, the average school day is filled with distractions. Most of them—like crushes, friends, and feuds—are actually good. They’re part of a different, but equally important, type of learning. But some classroom distractions aren’t so helpful, and some of the food that kids are eating these days are prime examples. The behavioral effects of poor nutritional choices include sugar crashes, foggy cognition, and hyperactivity. Not to mention the fact that plenty of kid-targeting foods are fundamentally messy, sticky, and disruptive.
Over the past few years, nutritional standards have improved in the lunchroom, but the classroom door is still wide open to the perils of junk food and empty calories. A recent study published in Childhood Obesity found that snacks brought from home are more likely to be high in fat and sugar, and that sack lunches often lack fruit, vegetables, and dairy products compared with school lunches. With that in mind, I took a good, hard look at what kids are eating these days and rounded up a list of foods that should be banned from school. Here are six foods that just don’t make the grade, compliments of the all-new Eat This, Not That! 2013 guide.
150 calories10 g fat (1.5 g saturated)
250 mg sodium
How unfortunate that Cheetos—the only chips represented by a kid-friendly cartoon character—are among the worst snacks in the store. They’re high in sodium, low in fiber, and are made with neurotoxic monosodium glutamate. Plus, when the iconic orange coating fuses with fingertip oil, it forms a putty-like crud that affixes to seemingly any surface. Finally, if you’ve ever seen a kid eat Cheetos, then you know that a lot of finger-licking goes into the process. Now think about all of the pathogens in a classroom—that’s a lot of sick days on the line.
THE YEAR IN BAD FOOD: Want to end the year on the right nutritional foot? Make sure to steer clear of the calorie culprits on our list of the Worst Foods In America!
240 calories12 g fat (6 g saturated, 0.5 g trans)
16 g sugars
The problem with this breakfast is written—or, rather, sprinkled—all over it: sugar. Each serving packs four teaspoons, enough to prime your child for a mid-morning energy crash. A bowl of Lucky Charms with milk would supply less! And don’t forget about the sugar that doesn’t make it into your kid’s mouth—that’s the sticky, chalky residue that will inevitably end up on bus seats, desktops, and in lockers. Do everyone a favor and find a better breakfast.
400 calories10 g fat (3 g saturated)
32 g sugars
Pop-tarts may be stocked in same aisle as the cereal and pancake mix, but breakfast fare they’re not. The primary ingredients here are refined flour, various sweeteners, and oil—fruit makes up less than 2 percent of each pastry! Plus, Kellogg’s skews the serving size. If it really intends one pastry to be a serving (like it lists on the nutrition label), then why did it package two per packet? (For other examples of sneaky portioning, check out The 9 Biggest Serving Size Rip-Offs.) A bowl of Teddy Grahams cookies—which contain fewer calories, less fat, far less sugar, and more fiber per serving—would make a better breakfast.
250 calories2.5 g fat (2.5 g saturated)
47 g sugars
What Skittles lack in fat, they make up for in sugar. They also contain nine different artificial dyes, including yellow 5, which the Journal of Pediatrics linked to hyperactivity in children. All that sugar and artificial stimulants? Not only does a combination like that make it difficult to focus on learning, but it could also lead to disruptive behaviors. Plus, all of those food dyes bleed all over kids’ hands and cause staining.
DO YOU HAVE A BEVERAGE BELLY? Americans take in about 355 calories of added sugar every day, much of it from sodas and other sugary drinks. Your best defense: Avoid everything on our list of the 20 Worst Drinks in America.
230 calories2 g fat (1 g saturated)
45 g sugars
I endorse chocolate milk at any age, whether it’s served as an after-school snack for kids or post-workout fuel for adults. The problem with Yoo-Hoo is that it’s not milk. It’s actually a bizarre blend of water, high fructose corn syrup, and whey—and a high-calorie one at that. If your child drank 16 ounces of chocolate milk, she would gain 16 grams of protein. Yoo-Hoo offers a paltry 3 grams.
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0 g fat
54 g sugars
Earlier this year, New York City began regulating serving sizes of soft drinks for adults. If grown-ups are unable to moderate portions, do you really think impulse-heeding children will be able to, especially when soda manufacturers include multiple servings per bottle? Absolutely not. This is particular concerning considering that the Center for Science in the Public Interest estimates that caramel coloring, a carcinogen and soda ingredient, is responsible for roughly 15,000 cancers in the U.S. every year. Between that, the calories, and the caffeine, Coke—and soda in general—is one drink that every school should suspend.
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