It’s not unreasonable to assume foods labelled ‘low-fat, ‘no-added sugar’ or even a ‘superfood’ are healthier choices for your family. However, look closer at the ingredients and you might see that those same foods aren’t as good for you as their marketing wants you to believe. Something can be branded as ‘healthy’, but still contain high levels of energy, salt, sugar and fat. The only way to separate the healthy foods from the imposters is to arm yourself with the facts and know what’s really in the foods. To get you started here’s our top five popular ‘health’ foods that you might want to question (or at least limit) before including them in your child’s diet.

1.  Smoothies or smoothie bowls

Smoothies often contain large amounts of sugar from various sources including honey, syrups, sweetened yoghurts or ice-cream. Also, most smoothies contain fruit, which is why their nutrition content can be deceiving. Fruits in smoothies are often processed in a way that removes the fibre which can help give a feeling of being full. Without fibre, you tend to drink a lot more fruit than you would normally eat in whole form. For example, your child might eat one orange as a snack, but you wouldn’t give them five oranges (which is the amount you would find in one cup of juice).

Did you know that a medium berry smoothie can contain almost 50g of sugar?
That’s about the same amount of sugar you would find in a 500mL cola.

2.  Muesli bars

Muesli bars are packed with nuts, seeds, fruit and grains which are healthy and nutritious. However, it’s the ingredients that hold the muesli bars together (honey, oils, syrups, chocolate or sweetened yoghurt, for example) that make them high in sugar and fat.  Instead, try making your own trail mix with nuts, seeds, plain air-popped popcorn and dried fruit.

3.  Banana bread or fruit muffins

Banana bread and fruit muffins ‘contain fruit so they must be healthy’, right? Wrong. Although these foods do contain fruit, they can often also contain high amounts of sugar and fat, which makes them high in calories/kilojules.  For example, some supermarket and café banana breads contain 400 calories per slice – the same as a chocolate brownie!

Instead, try making your own banana bread and fruit muffins so you can adjust the amount of sugar and fat you add. The Growing Good Habits website has a delicious and healthy recipe for whole wheat strawberry banana muffins.

4.  Raw, vegan treats

A lot of people turn to raw, vegan desserts like cakes and slices thinking they are a healthier option because they are not cooked and don’t contain animal products. But just like regular desserts, vegan desserts are often high in calories/kilojules because they contain large amounts of sugar and fat.  If your kids are not able to eat animal products, try this muffin recipe and use an egg replacement and a non-dairy yoghurt.

5.  Frozen yoghurts

You might be surprised to know that most frozen yoghurts are not simply yoghurt that is frozen. They often have added ingredients like cream and sugar making them higher in calories/kilojoules when compared to a plain low-fat Greek yoghurt.  Try making your own berry Greek yoghurt ice blocks

Be wary of ‘refined sugar-free’ products

Products that claim they are refined sugar-free are not always completely sugar-free. Sugar comes in many forms and is processed the same way in our bodies. Always read the ingredients list on the label and understand that sugar may be listed as something other than just ‘sugar’. This includes:

  • brown sugar
  • concentrated fruit juice
  • corn syrup
  • dextrose
  • raw sugar
  • golden syrup
  • fructose
  • glucose
  • sucrose
  • maltose
  • mannitol
  • maple syrup
  • molasses
  • lactose
  • nectar

Healthy food doesn’t have to be expensive or trendy – it just needs to be simple and wholesome. Learning how to read food labels can also be helpful to ensure you are providing your kids with a nutritious diet. Although some of the foods listed above may be high in calories, fat, sugar and/or salt, we can’t all be perfect 100 per cent of the time. It’s important to remember that we are allowed to let our kids enjoy these foods in moderation.

For more healthy eating tips and recipes, visit www.growinggoodhabits.health.qld.gov.au