New research shows that many foods marketed as toddler food are so loaded with salt and sugar that they might as well be junk food.
Grab n’ go prepared toddler meals and snacks help parents feed their little ones in a pinch, but new research shows that just because they’re targeted toward toddlers doesn’t mean they’re healthy. In fact, the opposite seems to be true.
Publishing in the journal Pediatrics, researchers found that 72 percent of pre-made toddler food dinners were incredibly high in sodium and 32 percent of toddler dinners and most fruit-based or savory snacks also contained added sugars.
"Some of the foods had about similar [sugar or salt] content to what we see in adult foods," study co-author Mary Cogswell, a senior scientist in the division for heart disease and stroke prevention at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) told LiveScience, according to MNN. "For example, in the category of savory snacks or salty snacks, the average sodium concentration, or amount of sodium per 100 grams, was about the same as you see in plain potato chips."
This is problematic for toddlers because taste preferences start early and carry on into adulthood. So if your toddler snacks on foods that are high in salt and sugar, these extreme flavors will rule their tastebuds later in life.
In the study, researchers collected data from grocers including Kroger, Publix, Target, Costco, and Walmart as well as from the Gladson Nutrition Database. In all, 1,074 products were analyzed as part of the study. Products geared toward infants tended to be low in sodium and sugar but the same was not true of toddler foods. Toddler dinners and snacks had an average sodium content of 496 mg per 100 grams of food. Additionally, savory prepared meals like mac n’ cheese for example, contained added sugars.
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"This study shows that toddlers are exposed to foods that have an unnecessarily high content of salt and sugar," the doctors wrote, MNN reported. "This could lead them to develop a desire for these tastes for the rest of their lives."
It’s a lesson in not being fooled by labels. Just because a food may be geared toward our kids doesn’t mean it’s anymore healthy. And it could even be worse. Learn to read labels for sodium and added sugars. Then take it a step further and avoid preservatives, artificial colors, flavors, and trans fats.
Instead of buying prepared mac n’ cheese, take a few extra minutes to make it yourself. Add in fresh fruits and vegetables time and time again; kids that refuse foods at first may love them later. Don’t be fooled by foods that you wouldn’t think would have added sugars like yogurts, condiments, fresh juice, and other snacks. Be a savvy reader of nutrition labels and you can mold healthy taste buds for years to come.
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Toddler eating image from Shuttershock