F is for fructose: Sure, they sound wholesome, but cereal bars are often candy bars in disguise. Loaded with refined grains and sweeteners like high-fructose corn syrup, these bars will give your kids a quick rush of energy that ends with a crash midmorning. “The American Heart Association recently issued guidelines regarding sugar for the first time,” says Kristin Kirkpatrick, MS, RD, LD, wellness manager at the Cleveland Clinic. “Most of our diets contain way too much, and children are no exception.”
A+ alternative: Look for bars made with whole ingredients, including whole grains and dried fruit and nuts.
Extra credit: Have your child wash down her nutritious bar with a cup of low-fat milk. That way, she gets a healthy dose of calcium, which is often lacking when kids opt out of breakfast cereals (the good-for-them kind, that is).