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fave food swaps for kids

I don’t know about you, but I never knew there was quite so much thinking to do about food until I had babies, you know what I mean? While we are definitely nowhere close to perfect, we do try to be somewhat mindful of ingredients- if nothing else, it makes me less stressed about all the times my kids eat outside of my kitchen (take out, sideline snacks, birthday parties… that kind of thing) when I know that they’re eating mostly well at home. That being said- they are kids, they’ve been exposed to junk food, and so I’ve learned that I am ok with organic/clean ingredient… junk. Haha. – Jenna

It’s for sure easy to go crazy over this stuff but instead of not letting my kids eat anything or going insane over additives, I trust in the good choices that we are making where and when we can (combined with a healthy dose of good intention and grace, always!). For us, they’re health preferences, not allergies, so that of course makes it easier as well.

As a disclaimer- yes, I know that most of these things are a non-issue when you avoid packaged and processed foods. These swaps aren’t perfectly “clean” and I know they’re not always accessible either. And while it seems that alternatives are becoming more popular in mainstream grocery aisles, there can be a significant price difference. Regional groceries and stores like Target often have store-brand organics that are great choices too.

These are the top things I try to avoid-

  1. Conventional wheat– without getting too in the weeds on this one, wheat is one of the top crops treated with the pesticide glyphosate.

  2. Bioengineered/genetically modified ingredients– the US labeling guidelines recently changed (requiring bioengineered ingredients to be disclosed) and WOW was I shocked that these seem to find their way into many, many packaged foods. I could not even find a pack of gum the other day that didn’t have it. Some of the top GMO (Genetically Modified Organism) crops in the US are also ones that make up a lot of additives or ingredients in packaged foods: corn (92% of all planted in 2020), soybeans (94% of all planted in 2020), canola (95% of all planted in 2013), and sugar beets (99.9% of all harvested in 2013). According to the FDA, “most GMO plants are used to make ingredients that are then used in other food products. For example, cornstarch can be made with GMO corn and sugar can be made with GMO sugar beets.” There are only about a dozen GMOs available in the US, but whew- that small list is in A LOT of food.

    I was even more shocked (and honestly, ticked off) that some companies are using a QR code or “smart label” as a way to avoid disclosing it right on the label. It’s ridiculous to have to pull up a website to double check the ingredient list when you should be able to do that from the package you have in your hand. If this is important to you to avoid or even just to be aware of, keep an eye out for that. Products that are certified organic cannot contain GMO ingredients.

  3. Food dyes– this is a pretty new one to us but after looking into it more, I do try now to pay more attention to avoiding numbered dyes (Red 40, etc) in our snacks and candy. Products that are certified organic cannot contain artificial colors.

CANDY– Friday is movie night in our house, and trying to upgrade the kids’ candy has been a mission. Haha. I knew they weren’t ideal but I was so sad when I found out M&Ms had bioengineered ingredients!! They’re actually surprisingly hard to find a sub for. The Unreal chocolates are great but not always in stores.

I ended up adding the Yum Earth Giggles (I like these better actually!) and Chewys and the Unreal chocolates to our Thrive Market autoship* (if you want to try out Thrive Market, our link gets you 40% off your first order and we’ll earn Thrive Cash when you become a member) to keep them in the pantry. I’ve also seen dye-free chocolate gems at Trader Joe’s.

The Bueno bars are a fave car trip treat since they (and Kinder eggs!) are usually easy to find on the road. Check the label to be sure but I feel more comfortable with them over other chocolate bars because they’re made in Europe. Did you know that EU food standards ban some ingredients that manufacturers are allowed to use in the US??

SNACKS– The snacks are just never ending, right?! My kids are big crunchy snackers- and guess what’s in a lot of crunchy snacks? GMO corn. But there are some reallllly good dupes out there! Besides laundry detergent and a few pantry basics, my Thrive Market autoship* (affiliate link) each month literally consists of snacks for my kids.


Chips are always a go-to and I was excited to find The Good Crisp Company’s– my kids think the stackables are fun and they’re delicious. The Late July ranch and nacho cheese dupes are perfect for my tortilla chip eaters!

The Snow Days pizza bites are definitely a once-in-awhile treat- the price difference here is way bigger than some of these other snacks. Annie’s also has versions of these and mini pizza bagels.

Pop Corners are a must-know-about my sister introduced me to- they’re made with non-GMO corn + easier to find than some other things = a go-to gas station snack. The Kettle Corn flavor is also amazing. Popcorn from Indiana is also frequently carried at convenience stores/gas stations and it’s non-GMO. We grab quick snacks on the go more often than I’d like (between practices and activities for all the kids) and I remember being so overwhelmed at first- like, ughh do we even want to eat anything in here anymore?! But it seems like the selection has expanded recently with more refrigerator options for protein (like string cheese or Perfect Bars) and alternate brands so that is great.

QUICK BREAKFASTS– I grew up eating cereal for breakfast and it’s always one of my pregnancy cravings- so I think I’m a little picky about cereals. These 3 are so good. The Cascadian Farm dupes really hit that nostalgia for the cereals I grew up with for me. Nature’s Path Choco Chimps make the cereal milk “chocolate milk” at the end so that is, obviously, a big hit with my toddler.

Waffles and pancakes are always a hit in our house but not something we have time (or energy? haha) for every morning. Nature’s Path’s waffles are great and gluten free. Annie’s also makes a frozen organic homestyle waffle that makes the house smell so good while it’s toasting. Bonus 🙂

What are your favorite snacks for kids? Any good swaps?

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We’re three sisters and a whole lot of babies trying to find the little treasures in the everyday. We share links and thinks that make life a little bit easier or a little more beautiful… or to add a little laugh or two rightttt when you need one the most. That’s usually about 4-7pm around here. #iykyk Come hang with us!

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