That being said, with childhood obesity on the rise, a key to solving the issue is actually more calories–of the right kind. Kids' snacks should be loaded with protein and healthy fats, not sugar. Parents have been tossing crackers and fruit snacks at their hangry offspring for decades, but it's time to break the cycle by unveiling the poor quality of some popular go-to kids' snacks.
Applesauce1 of 9
Applesauce is a childhood favorite. It transitions perfectly from soft baby food to toddlers to active kids. However, classic applesauce brands like Mott's are some of the least healthy options you could feed your child.
A serving of applesauce is around 100 calories, but 88 percent of those calories come from sugar. Plus, the sweet stuff contains only a quarter of the fiber of a whole apple. If you're not willing to ditch the sauce, try making your own or purchase brands with no added sugars and no preservatives.
Yogurt2 of 9
Yogurt is an amazing snack packed with probiotics for healthy little tummies, but you can't ignore the fact that most brands are full of added sugar. Flavored yogurts or yogurt with candy toppings might as well be considered light ice cream.
Try plain Greek yogurt as an alternative. It has more protein than regular yogurt, and you can sweeten it yourself with raw honey or fresh fruit.
Energy Bars3 of 9
There's no snack more vital to kids' diets than the energy bar. Most energy bars on the market, however, are essentially sugar-laden empty calories with a side of protein and whole grains.
Reading labels is the key to choosing the healthiest energy bars. They will always have plenty of carbs, but that doesn't necessarily mean they're unhealthy. Carbs are essential to fuel activity, but watch out for sugar and sugar alcohols like xylitol or maltitol. Or, save yourself the trouble and make your own bars from scratch easily at home!
Cereal4 of 9
This is a real heartbreaker, but the truth needs to be brought to light about cereal. A bowl of the most common kids cereals, like Cap'n Crunch, Cinnamon Toast Crunch or even Cheerios is essentially just simple, processed carbs with very little protein.
Whole-grain cereals with fat-free milk are much healthier options for breakfast or snack time, and they should still be paired with a protein such as eggs or Greek yogurt.
Fruit Snacks5 of 9
"Not the fruit snacks, too!"
Yes, it's true. The most popular brands of fruit snacks, including Welch's and its off-brand counterparts, are actually very unhealthy snacks. Ranging from 80-90 calories per tiny pouch, with most kids eating them like candy, it's easy to rack up calories without even feeling full.
Fruit snacks have teaspoons of added sugar, and unlike energy bars, they don't even have protein or fiber to boost nutrition. Luckily, there are plenty of recipes for DIY fruit snacks and strips. And, if worse comes to worse, you could always just feed your kids real fruit.
Juice6 of 9
Fruit juices like grape and apple juice might be direct products of the real healthy thing, but some can contain the same number of calories and sugars as soft drinks. They do boast benefits, including vitamins and antioxidants, but when you squeeze the juice out of a fruit you also lose the added fiber.
Once again, you're much better off just eating grapes or a whole apple. As always, remember to supplement your child's hydration with plain ol' H2O.
100-Calorie Snack Packs7 of 9
100-calorie snack packs are so popular because, well, they're only 100 calories (duh). But, just because you're eating 100 calories worth of cookies doesn't mean you're not still eating cookies instead of a more nutritious snack.
If snacks are meant to fill kids up until their next big meal, then you're much better off giving your child 18 almonds than 18 mini Oreos.
Peanut Butter8 of 9
Yup, peanut butter's on the list. If there's one item in your grocery cart that should always be organic, it should be peanut butter. All-natural peanut butter is inherently healthy, packed with protein, fiber and unsaturated fats. On the flip side, most commercial brands add too much sugar and salt to justify their "healthy" reputation.
An even better option for kids is almond butter, which has more healthy fats, less sugar and less hydrogenated oil than peanut butter. They may even prefer the taste.