Welcome to the Fortified Family! Iโ€™m Katie Ferraro, Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and mom of 7 and I specialize in baby-led weaning. Iโ€™m passionate about feeding strong families and making food fun.

5 Foods to Steer Clear of at the Supermarket

5 Foods to Steer Clear of at the Supermarket

There are over 20,000 new food and beverage items unleashed on grocery store shelves each year...and most of them you don't need. Here are 5 food items to steer clear of at the supermarket if you're shopping for babies or kids.


Raw and Undercooked Seafood or Shellfish

This might seem like a no-brainer, but raw and undercooked seafood or shellfish is the single biggest cause of foodborne illness in the United States. Now you and I, with our fancy developed adult immune systems might be ok to handle the occasional high-quality sushi.

But people with compromised immune systems, like the elderly, pregnant women and young infants and children, should NOT consume these high risk foods. In fact, there's a powerful new parasite cropping up in seafood that causes serious flu-like symptoms. (Click here to read a Healthline article I was recently quoted in talking all about this new risk and how to avoid it.)

If you're looking for a better - and safer - way to serve your baby or child fish, check out my my list of 15 Ways to Feed Your Baby Fish.


Flavored Yogurt

I swear every time I go to the grocery store, there are more flavored yogurt offerings than there were at my last trip. But what to buy when it comes to yogurt is kind of a no-brainer.

You can pretty much ignore about 90% of whatever "flavored yogurt" or "fruited yogurt" your local store is offering. Both "flavored" and "fruited" are food manufacturer parlance for "sweetened". And yogurt in a tube marketed directly at kids? That's not even CLOSE to yogurt folks, so steer clear!

If there's one place you don't "need" to be getting added sugar, it's from your yogurt. If you want sweet yogurt, do it the smart way: add real fruit to plain unsweetened yogurt. When selecting your yogurt, the ingredient list should be short and sweet: milk and whatever bacteria was naturally used to ferment the yogurt.

Choose full-fat, whole milk yogurt for babies and younger toddlers. If your toddler is on track with his or her growth, it's ok to substitute lower fat yogurt like 2% or 1%...but still make sure it's "plain" and has no added sweeteners or sugars.

(PS: we only eat yogurt on bath day in our house :)


Frozen Waffles and Pancakes

Nothing says kids' breakfast like waffles and pancakes. While these breakfast bread-y foods can be a good source of whole grains and carbohydrate for children, the frozen aisle offerings are usually loaded with salt and sugar. 

Sure, it can be tempting to pick up a box of frozen waffles or pancakes...but it's certainly cheaper, and almost as easy to make your own.

Check out my Double Duty Breakfast Batter recipe here...it's packed with whole grain, minimal salt and saves you tons of time and money in the morning if you can get yourself to make the mix ahead of time! 


Unmarked Chicken Parts

The meat manager at my store stopped me in my tracks the other day when he said, "Hey ma'am, why did you buy this brand of chicken breast at $3.99/pound when I have this other one over here at $2.99?"

Now I love nothing more than an opportunity to get chatty with the meat man, so I told him the truth, "Your $2.99/lb chicken has no marking on it, so I know it's loaded with sodium." The $3.99/lb chicken was certainly a little pricier, but it was marked clearly on the package "no added salt."

You see, the problem with unmarked chicken parts is that there's nearly a 100% chance that chicken has been bulked up with saline solution. Adding salt to chicken not only helps increase moisture content, but it adds weight (and you buy by the pound, right? :) but a ton of salt that you don't need.

There's so much sodium elsewhere in our food supply that the last place your kids or you need to be getting it from is meat. Look for as close to 0 mg sodium per serving as you can find and steer clear of pre-marinated meat products that are pretty much pure salt.

For some other cost-cutting ways to get your kids protein, check out my Penny-Pinching Protein Recipes.


Breakfast Bars

One of my brothers has 2 small children, and the other day he asked me, "What's the best brand of cereal bar to buy for my kids?" This one was easy. My answer was, "None."

Whether you call them breakfast bars, cereal bars, protein bars or kids snack bars...the bottom line is, there's really no place in a kids' diet for these foods.

Breakfast bars - especially the type marketed to kids - are generally made up of white flour, sugar and salt. There's even one major nationally-recognized brand of bars that has a line for kids, and EVERY LAST ONE of those kids' bar flavor offerings has sugar as the first ingredient! As a dietitian friend of mine once said, "If it looks like a cookie and it tastes like a cookie...it's a cookie!

Save yourself some serious cash and skip the entire grocery aisle that's packed with crappy breakfast bars. If you're craving something filling for the morning and a little on the sweeter side, you can make your own bars at home. Check out my recipe for Peanut Butter Energy Bars...per serving they're cheaper than anything you can buy at the store, they do contain whole grains (oatmeal and quinoa) and a minimal amount of salt, plus they're a great way to include peanut protein in your kids' diet.


What are Your Big Food Beefs?

So there you have it, my top 5 foods to steer clear of at the grocery store. But what are the foods you avoid and why? Share your big food beefs in the comments below.

Over at Instagram I'm hearing you don't like flavored oatmeal packets (me too!) and that there are some healthy varieties of frozen waffles (Vans...I need to check them out!).

Would love to hear your feedback in the comments about other foods we can skip when we're out grocery shopping for our family. Thanks for reading!

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