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I always carry snacks for kids in the stroller or the bag just in case I need them when I am out with my toddler. Snacks are fun and tasty for kids. My daughter loves popular ‘Goldfish Crackers‘ and ‘Pocky Biscuit Sticks‘. Although I try to limit the amount of snacks my daughter has when she is having these kind of snacks, I always thought there must be better snacks out there. I am not talking about healthy fruits or veggie sticks. My daughter eats certain fruits and veggies during meal time and sometimes she doesn’t want them as a snack. Therefore, I wanted to see if there are other healthy snacks that I can substitute ‘Goldfish Crackers‘ and ‘Pocky Biscuit Sticks‘. After all, Goldfish or Pocky are probably not healthy for kids. In this post, I share with you how unhealthy some kids’ snacks can be and what organic snacks with better ingredients are available.
How Unhealthy Kids Snacks Are
Here are some of the common unhealthy ingredients that are used in kids snacks. Let’s take a look to some tips offered by the Health Care Guys blog.
In many bread or cracker products, often the first ingredient you would see is enriched wheat flour. Whole wheat loses some of its nutrients while being processed ( Some nutrients are stripped out during the refining process when the brand and the germ are removed). So the flour producer puts some nutrients back to it. Therefore, enriched flour is often fortified with a variety of vitamins and mineral. However, it still lacks some nutrients that whole wheat has. When the ingredient say ‘flour’ or ‘wheat flour’ instead of ‘whole wheat’, that means the flour is enriched.
You will also sometimes see enriched flour is ‘unbleached’. If you don’t see ‘unbleached’, that means flour is bleached to white color with whitening chemicals. Unbleached flour is good since it is free of free of whitening agents. Benzoyl peroxide and chlorine gas are commonly used among others for whitening process. (wheat flour is originally off white color)
Another problem is that some farmers may use glyphosate, the most widely used pesticides on even non-GM crops such as wheat or oats. Glyphosate is classified as a probable carcinogen to humans by the World Health Organization. Therefore, there is a possibility of consuming glyphosate when wheat or oats are not certified organic.
Many children’s snacks are made of rice. However, rice can contain arsenic and other heavy metals such as mercury. Studies have shown that rice-based products such as rice cereals contain more arsenic or mercury compared to non-rice based products. A study done by Healthy Babies Bright Futures (HBBF), infant rice cereals had 84% more arsenic than non-rice based or multigrain cereals. Also a study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, rice cereals had 3 times more mercury than multigrain cereals on average and 19 more mercury than non-rice cereals. Arsenic is a carcinogen. It can also permanently reduces children’s IQ and learning ability. Mercury causes permanent damage to central nerve system to infants and young children.
Shortening, Partially Hydrogenated Oil or Hydrogenated Oil
Hydrogenated oil helps increase shelf life of the products or add texture. Manufacturers also use hydrogenated oil to save costs. Hydrogenated oil can be fully hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated. Partially hydrogenated oil is harmful because it contains trans fat. This fat is so unhealthy that FDA has declared that no food manufacturers are allowed to add partially hydrogenated oils to their foods after Jan. 1, 2020. Trans fat not only lowers your good cholesterol but also increase your bad cholesterol. It contributes to heart disease, diabetes, blood clots and stroke. Cooking oils such as margarine or vegetable shortenings contain partially hydrogenated oils. Fully hydrogenated oil does not contain trans fat but still contains saturated fat which is also unhealthy. According to The American Heart Association, eating foods with saturated fats raises the level of cholesterol in your blood and it increase your risk of heart disease and stroke. Shortening is oil that is solid at room temperature. When you see shortening in the ingredient list, it usually refers to margarine, not butter.
Vegetable Oil (Sunflower, Canola or Soybean Oil, Palm Oil)
Cooking with vegetable oil such as sunflower, canola or soybean oil produces toxic chemicals which can cause cancer or other diseases. Scientists found that when vegetable oils are heated up, a toxic chemical called aldehydes was released. Aldehydes can cause cancer, heart disease and dementia. Also, most canola crops (over 90%) and soy beans (more than 93%) are genetically modified (GMO) in United States. More than 80% of all genetically modified crops grown worldwide have been engineered to tolerate toxic herbicides. Glyphosate is the main active ingredient of toxic herbicides, Roundup and it is classified as a probable carcinogen to humans by the World Health Organization. Also according to the Institute for Responsible Technology, “Genetically modified foods have been linked to toxic and allergic reactions, sick, sterile and dead livestock, and damage to virtually every organ studied in lab animals,” Unfortunately, you will find so many food products use vegetable oil when you read their ingredients.
Palm oil is also vegetable oil and it comes from the Elaeis guineensis tree. If you read ingredients, you will see so many products contain palm oil. Palm oil doesn’t contain trans fat but it is high in saturated fat. Saturated fat is linked to heart disease. According to The American Heart Association, saturated fat raises your bad cholesterol and put you at higher risk for heart disease. Palm oil is controversial since it can be bad for your health if you consume a lot of it but some poeple say it is safe if you consume it as a balanced diet. High demand of palm oil also contributes to deforestation of the rainforest and a loss of animal habitat for endangered species. (loss of estimated 100,000 orangutans, for example)
High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) And Sugar
High Fructose Corn Syrup is made from corn syrup. It is cheaper and sweeter than sugar. Sugar and HFCS both have high calories but have absolutely no essential nutrients. Actually, they are very unhealthy because they contain fructose. HFCS contains 55% fructose and sugar contains 50% fructose. The fructose from corn syrup or sugar converts to fat in the liver and fat gets accumulated. It causes visceral fat accumulation which surrounds your organs. Too much fat in the liver will cause fatty liver disease and type 2 diabetes. Consuming sugar or HFCS has an increased risk of heart disease and also leads to obesity, high blood pressure, insulin resistance and inflammation which are risk factors of cancer. It is also linked to depression and skin & cellular aging.
Monosodium glutamate (MSG)
Monosodium glutamate (MSG) is a food additive that enhances flavor. It is widely used in processed food. MSG is derived from the amino acid glutamate, or glutamic acid. Some people claim that glutamic acid leads to excessive glutamate in the brain and excessive stimulation of nerve cells. It causes the production of excessive amounts of dopamine in the brain. It also stops the ability of the brain to respond to the signal from the hormone leptin. Leptin delivers the signal to the brain to stop eating. MSG can also cause brain damage to infants and prenatal subjects during development. It also lowers a protein called Adiponectin in the body (lowers it by 60 %) which helps the body regulate blood sugar and energy expenditure. MSG also has side effects such as development of obesity (especially susceptible to children), liver damage, diabetes, headache and high blood pressure.
MSG is listed as ‘monosodium glutamate’ in the ingredient list instead of MSG. Therefore, many consumers may not realize that the ingredient is the name for MSG. Also even though a food product says ‘No MSG added’, it can still contain MSG. MSG can actually be added to another ingredient or ingredient mixes and the flavor mixture can be listed as ‘flavors’ or ‘spices’. Also ingredients such as ‘yeast extract’ or ‘hydrolized soy protein‘ can contain processed glutamic acids (MSG) but MSG does not have to be listed in the ingredient list under the law. They are often used as a flavor enhancer. ‘Yeast extract‘ is used widely in the food industry for snacks, soups, sauces, bakery, canned fish and lunch meats. Manufacturers can claim their food products are natural or without MSG. However, yeast extract contains the same concentrated free glutamic acid as MSG.
Sodium Benzoate (E211) Or Potassium Benzoate
Sodium Benzoate (E211) or potassium benzoate are synthetic chemicals used as a preservative. They are often used in juices, sodas, jams or dressings. However, sodium benzoate or potassium benzoate can be dangerous. When sodium benzoate or potassium benzoate are combined with vitamin C (ingredients such as citric acid and/or ascorbic acid), these combined ingredients can form benzene. Benzene is a known carcinogen that is linked to leukemia and cancer of the blood-forming organs. Sodium Benzoate or Potassium benzoate are typically added to packaged foods. Many sodas and juices have these ingredients. However, diet drinks are more prone to benzene formation since sugar in regular drinks and juices helps reduce benzene formation.
Butylated Hydroxyanisole (BHA) or Butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT)
Butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA) and butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT) are often used as a preservative in cereal, potato chips, butter, chewing gum, baked goods, instant mashed potatoes, and dessert mixes. They are also commonly added to the plastic or wax paper liner of the packaging. BHA was found to cause tumors in animals. It is classified as ‘reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen’ by the International Cancer Agency. California’s Propostion 65 classifies it as known carcinogen. It is also classified as an endocrine disruptor by The European Union. Butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT) is not classified as a carcinogen but some studies have found that it could cause cancer in animals. Both BHA and BHT are harmful ingredients. Therefore, they should be avoided.
Artificial sweeteners are widely used for drinks and food such as children’s vitamins, yogurt, dairy products, snack foods, breakfast cereals, baked goods, sodas. Many processed foods with a ‘sugar-free’ label will contain an artificial sweetener. There are five artificial sweeteners : saccharin (SweetN’Low), acesulfame potassium (ace-k), aspartame (Equal, NutraSweet, Sugar Twin) neotame, sucralose (Splenda), and advantame. According to the study published in Journal Molecules, artificial sweeteners disturbed gut microbiota and altered metabolism to slowed down. Another study by researchers at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU) in Israel and Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, the bacteria found in the digestive system became toxic when exposed to concentrations of only one mg./ml. of the artificial sweeteners. Another study reported that artificial sweeteners induce significant glucose intolerance by altering the gut microbiota. Glucose intolerance means blood glucose levels are higher than normal and that can lead to greater risk of developing diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Also, the American Dietetic Association states that children under 2 years of age, pregnant women and lactating women should not use artificial sweeteners, even though they are approved safe by the FDA.
Artificial sweeteners can also develop addiction of sweet foods. In a study published in US national Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health, most rats chose saccharine over cocaine when given a choice. Artificial sweeteners are 200-20,000 times sweeter than regular sugar. You can become used to sweet taste and possibly change your taste buds. You may crave and choose sweeter foods over non-sweet foods. You may also feel you can eat other high calorie foods since you are saving calories from sugar by consuming sweetener. This can lead to weight gain. According to the Multiethnic Study of Atherosclerosis, daily consumption of diet drinks was associated with a 36% greater risk for metabolic syndrome and a 67% increased risk for type 2 diabetes.
Artificial flavors often contain more than 100 chemical additives. Despite of this, manufacturers are not required to list what chemicals are used for artificial flavors in their ingredient lists. Instead, artificial flavors can be just listed as ‘artificial flavors’. Therefore, there is no way of knowing for consumers what chemicals are used. In 2018, FDA banned 7 artificial flavor substances (6 carcinogens and 1 that is not used by the industry any more.) The 6 chemicals are ethyl acrylate, benzophenone, eugenyl methyl ether, myrcene, pulegone and pyridine. These chemicals are commonly used in baked goods, ice cream or candies. Manufacturers have two years to substitute these ingredients to other flavor chemicals.
Artificial color chemicals are derived from petroleum. Artificial colors such as Blue 1, Blue 2, Citrus Red 1, Green 3, Red 40, Red 3, Yellow 5 and Yellow 6 can be very harmful to our health. Blu 2, for example, can cause brain tumors and it is banned in Norway. Green 3 can cause bladder tumors and it is banned in European economic communities. Yellow 6 can cause thyroid tumors, hyperactivity, allergies, asthma, chromosomal damage, eczema or hives. It is banned in Norway and Sweden. Most food dyes are found in unhealthy processed foods such as candies, ice creme, snacks, baked goods, macaroni and cheese, drinks, yogurt, etc. Artificial colors are also linked to cause hyperactivity and symptoms of ADD or ADHD in children. In Europe, food that contains artificial colors should have a label saying , “may have an adverse effect on activity and attention in children.”
Annatto is orange-red coloring derived from the seeds of the achiote tree. It is sometimes used for flavor or scent. It is a natural food dye, however, it can be allergic to some people. It can also trigger hyperactivity or behavior problems in young children.
Gold Fish Crackers and Pocky Biscuit Crackers Ingredients
I try not to feed my daughter snacks too often. Snacks must have some harmful or unhealthy ingredients, right? My daughter enjoys ‘Goldfish Crackers‘ and ‘Pocky‘ very much so I wanted to find out what ingredients they are made of Let’s take a look!
One good thing about Goldfish crackers is that they are baked, not fried. What ingredients are not good in their crackers?
EWG’s Food Scores: 5
Ingredients: Unbleached enriched wheat flour (flour, niacin, reduced iron, thiamin mononitrate (vitamin B1), riboflavin (vitamin B2), folic acid, cheddar cheese [pasteurized cultured milk, salt, enzymes), annatto], vegetable oils (sunflower, canola and/or soybean), contains 2 percent or less of: salt, yeast, sugar, spices, autolyzed yeast, leavening (monocalcium phosphate, ammonium bicarbonate, baking soda) and onion powder.
Unbleached enriched wheat flour – Main ingredient is enriched wheat flour. Therefore, some of whole wheats’ nutrients are stripped out during refining process. Wheat flour is not organic, therefore, it could contain glyphosate
pasteurized cultured milk – Milk is not organic. Therefore, the milk probably came from cows that are treated with antibiotics.
Annatto – This ingredient is natural but it could trigger hyperactivity in kids
Sunflower, Canola and/ or Soybean Oil – Vegetable oils can produce harmful chemicals while being cooked. Canola and Soybean oil have GMO and glyphosate concern.
Spices – We don’t know exactly what ingredients are mixed in spices. It may contain MSG.
Glico Pocky Biscuit Sticks
EWG’s Food Scores: I couldn’t find Glico Pocky Biscuit Sticks in their list. However, very similar product, Pocky Biscuit Sticks scored 7-10, as products with high concern.
Ingredients: Wheat flour, sugar, blend of vegetable oil, lactose, whole milk powder, palm oil shortening, beet red color, artificial flavors, salt, yeast, strawberry powder, lecithin, leavening, monoglycerides, sodium hydroxide, papain
Wheat flour – Wheat flour that lacks nutrients compared to whole wheat. Wheat flour is not organic, therefore, it could contain glyphosate.
Sugar – Sugar is very unhealthy and it causes many diseases.
Blend Of Vegetable Oil – Cooking in vegetable oil can produce harmful chemicals and it also has GMO concerns.
Whole Milk Powder – Milk probably came from cows that were treated with antibiotics.
Palm Oil Shortening – Margarine or vegetable shortenings contain partially hydrogenated oils.
Artificial Flavors – Flavor can contain more than 100 chemicals but names of chemicals used are not listed. We don’ know what harmful chemicals are used.
Healthy Snacks For Kids
I have listed some organic snacks with better ingredients below. Let’s take a look!
Annie’s Homegrown Organic Cheddar Bunnies Baked Snack Crackers – Healthy Snacks For Kids
Annie’s Homegrown Organic Cheddar Bunnies Baked Snack Crackers has 95% organic ingredients. These crackers are USDA organic certified. There are no GMO ingredients, artificial flavours, synthetic colours or preservatives. It also contains real milk and cheese ingredients. If your kids love Goldfish crackers, these crackers have similar taste. Organic wheat flour is not whole wheat but it is organic. Milk and cheese used are also organic so they are not from cows which are treated with antibiotics or growth hormones regularly. Annie’s Organic Cheddar Bunnies also do not use any canola or soy bean oil which are most likely GMO. It is also baked, not fried.
Ingredients: Organic Wheat Flour, Organic Expeller-Pressed Sunflower Oil, Salt, Organic Cheddar Cheese (pasteurized organic milk, cheese cultures, sea salt, non-animal enzymes), Baking Soda, Organic Yeast, Organic Paprika, Monocalcium Phosphate, Cultured Organic Milk, Organic Nonfat Dry Milk, Organic Annatto (for color), Organic Onion Powder, Organic Celery Seed Powder, Enzymes.
Annie’s Homegrown Organic White Cheddar Bunnies – Healthy Snacks For Kids
Yellow Cheddar Bunnies contains a little bit of natural food dye, Annatto which can cause hyperactivity in some kids. If you want to avoid this ingredient, White Cheddar Bunnies does not contain Annatto.
Ingredients: Organic Wheat Flour, Organic Expeller-Pressed Sunflower Oil, Organic Cheddar Cheese (pasteurized organic milk, cheese cultures, sea salt, non-animal enzymes), Dried Organic Cheddar Cheese (organic cultured milk, salt, non-animal enzymes), Salt, Organic Whey, Organic Nonfat Dry Milk, Leavening (baking soda, monocalcium phosphate), Organic Yeast, Cultured Organic Milk, Organic Paprika, Organic Onion Powder, Organic Celery Seed Powder, Enzymes.
Sprout Organic Wafflez Blueberry Apple Toddler Snack – Healthy Snacks For Kids
Sprout Organic Wafflez Toddler Snack is made with whole grains and real fruits & veggies. It is USDA certified organic and non-GMO. It uses whole foods, no concentrates. There are no added colors or flavors. It contains no artificial ingredients.
Ingredients: European Stoneground Organic Wheat Flour, Organic Sustainable Palm Oil, Organic Cane Sugar, Organic Blueberry Puree, Organic Apple Puree, Organic Whole Eggs, Organic Chickpea Flour, Organic Brown Rice Syrup, Sea Salt, Non GMO Sunflower Lecithin, Organic Lemon Oil, Baking Soda.
Sprout Organic Wafflez Apple Carrot Cinnamon Toddler Snack – Healthy Snacks For Kids
This is another kind of wafflez Sprout has.
Ingredients: European Stoneground Organic Wheat Flour, Organic Sustainable Palm Oil, Organic Cane Sugar, Organic Apple Puree, Organic Carrot Puree, Organic Whole Eggs, Organic Chickpea Flour, Organic Brown Rice Syrup, Sea Salt, Organic Cinnamon, Non GMO Sunflower Lecithin, Baking Soda.
NurturMe Yum-A-Roo’s Organic Toddler Snack – Healthy Snacks For Kids
NurturMe Yum-A-Roo’s Organic Toddler Snack contains organic, pure fruits and veggies. It has bite sized pieces that are easily dissolvable in the mouth.
Ingredients: organic banana, organic apple, organic broccoli
Little Duck Organics, I Love Tiny Fruits – Healthy Snacks For Kids
Little Duck Organics, I Love Tiny Fruits are 100% organic freeze dried snacks. They are certified organic, non-GMO, Kosher and gluten-free. They are made of just real fruits with no added sugar.
Ingredients: Organic Strawberries, Organic Mangos
Simple Mills Almond Flour Crackers – Healthy Snacks For Kids
Simple Mills Almond Flour Crackers is made with a blend of almond flour, sunflower seeds & flax seeds. It is certified gluten free, grain free, soy free, corn free, dairy and gums/emulsifier free. It is Paleo friendly and non-GMO project verified. It has 3g of protein per serving. It is baked, not fried.
*This product contains nuts.
Ingredients: Nut and Seed Flour Blend (Almonds, Sunflower Seeds, Flax Seeds), Tapioca, Cassava, Organic Sunflower Oil, Sea Salt, Organic Onion, Organic Garlic, Rosemary Extract (For Freshness)
Mary’s Gone Crackers Original Crackers – Healthy Snacks For Kids
Mary’s Gone Crackers is made with whole ingredients and plant based protein. It is certified organic and gluten free. There is no added sugar, oils or fat. It is manufactured in their own certified organic and gluten free bakery. It has 450mg omega-3 fatty acids and 18g of 100% whole grain or more per serving.
Ingredients: Organic whole grain brown rice, organic whole grain quinoa, organic brown flax seeds, organic brown sesame seeds, filtered water, sea salt, organic wheat-free tamari (water, organic whole soybeans, salt, organic vinegar)
Organic Quinoa Queen Cereal – Healthy Snacks For Kids
Organic Quinoa Queen Cereal has only one ingredient. It is made from 100% Ecuadorian organic premium quinoa. It can be used as cereal or snack. It is Kosher certified, gluten free, dairy free, peanut free, nut free, soy free, trans fat free, sugar free, artificial flavors, preservative and colorant free. It is also vegan and non-GMO. It has 4 g of protein and 4 g of fiber per serving.
There is also a lightly sweetened version if you want it a little sweet.
Ingredients: Organic whole quinoa
365 Everyday Value Organic Morning O’s – Healthy Snacks For Kids
365 Everyday Value Organic Morning O’s is organic and Kosher. It has 22g of whole grains per serving. It is also a 1 g of beta glucan soluble fiber.
Ingredients: organic whole grain oat flour, organic rice flour, organic cane sugar, sea salt, calcium carbonate, mixed tocopherols (vitamin e) added to maintain freshness.
Here are some stainless steel snack containers for on the go. I carry the LunchBots Small Protein Packer Toddler Bento Box when I go out with my daughter and it works great!
LunchBots Small Protein Packer Toddler Bento Box – Healthy Snack Container
LunchBots Small Protein Packer has two small (2oz each) and two tiny (1oz each) sections. It is made of 18/8 stainess steel.
TAVVA Snack Containers – Healthy Snack Containers For Kids
TAVVA set of 3 snack containers includes large container 13.5 oz., medium container 7.4 oz., small container 3.3 oz. capacity. They are made of 18/8 stainless steel. Lids are made of silicone and 100% leak proof.
This one is a single container of 3 oz. It is made of 18/8 stainless steel. Lids are made of silicone and 100% leak proof.
Home And Harvest Stainless Steel Food Storage Containers – Healthy Snack Containers For Kids
Home and Harvest Stainless Steel Food Storage Containers include 3oz, 6 oz, 14 oz, 24 oz. They are made of 18/8 stainless steel. Lids are made of silicone and 100% leak free.
Organic, fresh, whole foods will be the best option for children’s snacks. However, sometimes you need fun, healthy snacks that are not fruits or veggies for kids. Many ingredients in children’s snacks are artificial and unhealthy. Therefore, I wanted to find some snacks that are better with heathier ingredients. These snacks works great when you are on the go. I have changed all my daughter’s snacks to some of the snacks I have listed. She particularly likes Annie’s Homegrown Organic Cheddar Bunnies and also their White Cheddar Bunnies. They are great alternatives to Pepperidge Farm’s Goldfish Cheddar Crackers. My daughter also enjoys Mary’s Gone Original Crackers and Sprout Organic Wafflez Toddler Snack. Amount and frequency of snacks should be limited since kids should get nutrients from their meals. However, if snacks are needed sometimes, we can limit harmful chemicals and choose better ingredients in our kids’ snacks. Every kid is different so one may not like certain brand products. Not one snack is perfect for everyone. Therefore, it is good to explore different healthy snack options and find snacks that fit your child’s nutrition and taste.
For what foods to avoid for kids ‘Harmful Chemicals In Children’s Foods – What Foods To Avoid For Children‘.
For non toxic art supplies for kids – ‘Non Toxic Art Supplies For Kids – Which Art Supplies Are Safe?‘.
For non toxic toys – Best Non-Toxic Toys – What Are the Best Non-Toxic Toy Brands?
For non toxic gift for toddlers – Non Toxic Gifts For Toddlers.
For healthy toddler shoes –Toddler Shoes Guide and Review – Toddler Shoes That Promote Healthy Foot Development