A Pediatrician Speaks: Five Foods You Won't See in My House

September 15, 2017 Reema Basu, MD


Like all parents, I make a few trade-offs when it comes to conscientiously serving my kids healthy meals. Yes, every once in a while I’ll agree to ice cream or cake. However, to ensure good nutrition now and healthy habits for life, there are a few foods I don’t allow.

Here are five foods that rarely make their way into this pediatrician’s house:

Apple Juice – Many parents are under the false impression that juice boxes are filled with vitamins and nutrients. In reality, their kids are sucking down unhealthy amounts of concentrated fructose. And juices don’t have the fiber benefits of real fruit. Unfortunately, most juices are on my “no” list, even apple juice –that age-old parental go-to drink. I single out apple juice only because it’s so popular among both parents and kids. And kids will often gulp down more than just one glass when they’re thirsty. That’s a sugar rush that simply isn’t good for them.

Sports Drinks and Sodas – I’m going to continue on my soapbox against sugary drinks here. Most kids do not need sugar-filled sports drinks. True, these beverages provide calories and electrolytes after a very intense workout, but few children sweat and exert themselves on the same level as professional athletes.

As for sodas, parents already know this isn’t a good option. There’s simply too much sugar, which can lead to many health problems including obesity. Also, most sodas contain high levels of phosphate, which can have a deleterious effect on bone health. Don’t be drawn to claims of “natural” flavors and don’t introduce diet soft drinks to children.

Make no mistake, children need to stay hydrated. That’s where good old fashioned water takes a starring role. Or, dole out sliced fruit after children play sports. You’ll be the team’s super-cool parent.

Cookies, Crackers and Snacks – I’ll admit that you may see a cookie in my child’s hand every once in a while. However, at my house, we say no to constant snacking on cookies, crackers, chips and other treats. Yes, it’s tempting to give children snacks to calm them, especially while parents are busy with work or other activities. However, snacks do compromise your child’s ability to sit at the table and enjoy meal time with their family. And enjoying a meal together is perhaps one of the healthiest habits you can encourage. Not only do regular meals encourage good nutrition, they are essential for developing children’s social and communication skills.

Ketchup and Other Dipping Sauces – Here’s one I know is somewhat controversial, but I’m not a fan of condiments such as mayonnaise (a big no), barbecue sauce (uh uh) and ketchup (a smaller but still vocal no). Mayonnaise is both heavy on the calories and fat. Barbecue sauce has sugar and calories children don’t need. Ketchup, although lower in calories, contains sugar and salt. It is not, as some might joke, a daily serving of vegetables. Granted, a few squeezes from the ketchup bottle may be permitted, but also think about what you’re dousing in ketchup. If it’s unhealthy French fries or chicken nuggets, don’t do it. Also, introducing rich sauces doesn’t allow children to acquire a taste for different foods. You want them to develop a palate that enjoys a variety of flavors.

Honey – Honey is a “no go” until your child is one year old. There’s toxic bacteria in honey that causes botulism, a potentially fatal disease, especially for very young children whose immune systems have not matured. It doesn’t matter if the honey is raw or highly processed. The verdict is no honey for your tiny honeys, at least until their first birthdays.

I realize that juices, ketchup and other foods show up at the birthday parties and other events my children attend, so I don’t freak out if my children take a taste from time to time. However, at our house, we’ll continue to stock up on good food choices and keep the unhealthy ones out of the cabinets and fridge.

Reema Basu, MD, is a board-certified pediatrician at St. Joseph Heritage Medical Group.

This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your health care professional's instructions.



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