What foods should I exclude from my child’s lunch choices?

September 12, 2015

Q: As my kids go back to school, I’m faced with the task of finding healthy foods to feed them. I have recently found that things like fruit juice and yogurt are sometimes not as healthy as people think. What are your thoughts on this and are there any other foods I should replace or exclude from lunch choices?

A: Trying to provide a healthy choice lunch for kids can be a difficult task because there are so many foods that claim to be good for you that really are impostors. Here are a few things to consider when choosing what you want to feed your children.


Yogurt has been billed as a healthy snack as long as I can remember, but be careful when choosing the brand and type for your child’s lunch because some are not much better than eating unhealthy fast food. The reason is, some yogurts have high amounts of sugar, making them equivalent to eating candy. Choosing yogurt with fruit is even worse because the level of sugar is even higher. A much better alternative would be plain Greek yogurt because not as much sugar is added.

Granola and granola bars

I know what you’re thinking, “What could possibly be wrong with something made of oats, nuts, honey and seeds?" Well, let’s not forget these healthy ingredients are cemented together like concrete in a brick wall with loads of sugar and hydrogenated oils and other artificial ingredients to make them taste good and last on grocery store shelves for long periods of time, making them a less-than-desirable food choice.

Sports drinks

Sports drinks were invented to replenish electrolytes after an intense game or competition, but somehow they found themselves into mainstream convenience and grocery stores. Chugging them down throughout the day can adds loads of sugar carbs to the diet, spiking insulin levels, promoting weight gain and causing a sugar high followed by a low that will crash your child’s energy. They have also been singled out as one of the most dangerous kinds of drinks because you can drink a lot more calories than you can normally eat in one sitting.

Fruit juices

Fruits have a lot of vitamins and minerals that are beneficial to our bodies, but they are also high in sugar. Turning them into juice will eliminate the fiber and leave you with a high-calorie drink that’s not much better than eating the average candy bar. Some juice companies will also add sugar, making the situation even worse. Be sure to read the label, but a much better choice would be eating fruit in its natural form instead of drinking fruit juice.

Protein and breakfast bars

Combining protein into a portable healthy bar is a great concept but has proven to be a difficult task. For taste and shelf life, producers have added lots of sugar as well as hydrogenated oils and other preservatives, ruining the healthy benefits and creating a glorified high-protein candy bar. They may market these products as a good source of grain, but they are nothing more than packaged fast foods with lots of sugar, partial grains and large amounts of sodium.

Energy drinks

There are way too many kids who are now drinking energy drinks loaded with caffeine, guarana, taurine and other stimulants that are not meant to be consumed by adolescents. The research is still inconclusive as to their effects on adults, not to mention kids who are half the size. In addition to loading our youngsters' bodies with chemicals, these drinks cause extreme highs that are followed by a crash of energy that is obviously not ideal for school and a proper learning environment.

Remember, you are what you eat. If we are to expect our children to excel in school and be able to sit for long periods of time while still having stable energy and focus, we should try to give them the best fuel possible to be successful.

Chris Antonio is a personal trainer and former world-class weightlifter. He has been lifting for more than 20 years and has trained a wide variety of clients ranging from All-American athletes to the average person. To send a question, email or check out

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