ATLANTA - At the grocery store, so many choices, so many claims. Registered dietitian Wendy Palmer, Wellness Director for Children's Healthcare of Atlanta's Strong4Life program, picks up a pack of kids yogurt.
"25 percent less sugar, USDA organic, pediatrician-recommended," Palmer reads. "Those are all buzz words that, as a mom, we want to feed our kids the healthiest foods possible, so we gravitate towards these foods."
But Palmer wants parents to look beyond marketing labels.
And, to show us why, she's lined up some really popular kids foods, like fruit snacks.
"The front of the package says it's made with real fruit," Palmer says. "And, to be honest, there is not really fruit in this box or in these packages."
And, Palmer points out each serving contains 11 grams of sugars.
Next, she points to a toddler-sized bottle of apple juice, part of a pack marketed as "100% juice,"
"But fruit juice is primarily sugar," Palmer says. "Fruit juice, ounce for ounce, is comparable to drinking soda."
The tiny bottle has 13 grams of sugars.
"Here we have yogurt, baby yogurt," says Palmer.
It's labeled "organic," but Palmer cautions most flavored yogurts are full of added sugar, and experts recommend children under 2 consume no added sugars.
"Here we have baby food in a pouch," Palmer says, picking up two pouches.
One advertises healthy quinoa, the other barley.
"I think the interesting thing here is. what does it say on the front versus what's on the actual ingredient list?"
Ingredients are typically labelled in order, according how much of one ingredient is in each product.
"Quinoa is about the eighth ingredient on the list here. And, in this example (the barley-based pouch), the main ingredients are apple sauce and strawberry puree."
In other words, Palmer says, more sugar.
Next, she checks the nutritional facts for a smoothie.
"So this green smoothie here has about 47 grams of sugar in there," Palmer says. "That's over 12 teaspoons."
Granola bars, a big hit with older kids, are advertised as containing "whole grains."
They do, but Palmer points out the bars also contain chocolate.
"My rule of thumb for parents is, if it's got chocolate in it or on it or is coated in it, we need to think of it like a candy bar," she says.
All of this matters, Palmer says, because the foods we feed kids early on could define how they eat for the rest of their lives.
"So if they're used to snacking on foods that are sugary, salty, carbohydrate-based, as they become adults, they're not going to reach for the apple or the banana like we hope they will.," she says.
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