Medical researchers writing in a pediatric journal have expressed concern at the large amounts of food products marketed to toddlers and babies. Most of these foods contain astronomically high levels of sugars and salt which is totally unhealthy. According an article on the journal Globe and Mail, toddler’s do not need to be given any special food.
Do toddlers really need special foods?
Feeding toddlers is challenging, no question. But there is no nutritional reason to offer food products marketed to toddlers. Toddlers don’t need them. Young children can get all the nutrition they need, for far less money, by following the basic recommendations from Canada’s Food Guide. Sarah Remmer, a consulting dietitian in Calgary, and a mother of two young children, gives these tips for preparing snacks at home for toddlers: Chop veggies and fruits as soon as you bring them home from the grocery store/farmers’ market to have them ready for quick serving.
Is salt a concern for toddlers?
Given the high prevalence of chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes and obesity in adults, researchers are trying to understand how healthy eating habits, and more specifically, taste preferences are formed in early childhood. Last year, an infant feeding study in the U.S. concluded that children who are offered vegetables and fruit frequently in the first year of life were more likely to be eating them at the age of six.
While it may be easier to just throw that packaged baby food at the supermarket, the effects will be with your child for years to come. Kids should be encouraged to eat healthy when they are younger. You should not start them at all on these toddler foods only to try to deny them when they have already acquired a taste for it.
You should also be on the lookout for certain ingredients that may make these foods that may seem harmless but in reality are harmful. Salt and other ingredients have been linked to high blood pressure in young kids. This was traditionally thought to be a grownup’s problem but more and more kids are being diagnosed with it. Obesity has also been linked to high salt intake. While manufacturers of baby foods maintain that they have acceptable levels of salt in their products, some may not be completely honest.
The need for stricter control
Currently, Health Canada regulates the amount of sodium in, and prohibits addition of salt to, infant foods (foods that are specifically designed for consumption by children under the age of one). However, there are currently no regulations about food composition for products targeted to anyone over the age of one. Health Canada has, however, suggested benchmark sodium levels for different processed foods, including those marketed to toddlers, and encourages food manufacturers “to focus on reducing sodium in foods targeted to children.”
This means that these baby food manufacturers can pretty much put whatever they want in the food without answering to anyone. Better to control what your toddler eats by preparing their food at home. At least this way you will not be worried that they are consuming harmful foods that you are not aware of. While we may want to think that manufacturers are ethical, not all of them are and you do not want to risk your baby’s health because a brand seems legit.
Be a nutrition sleuth
The main reason why most parents fall for the advertising gimmicks that most baby food companies run is because they sound so factual. You should know all about the ingredients in a product and how they affect your child before putting it in your shopping cart. You want to know exactly what they do for or to your baby if you are to keep them safe. The simplest way to do all this is to get educated. There are so many sources of information today that no one can be excused for not knowing. Ignorance may be bliss in other cases but in this case it is your child’s life and health on the line. Most of this information is free and easy to access. You should vet your source though, because you do not want to rely on false “facts”.
Read the nutrition facts panel to identify the amount of salt and sodium in a food product. Pay close attention to the serving size – it may not be the same portion you would serve your child nor is it necessarily the same as the amount of food in that package. Toddlers can consume about 1,000 mg sodium daily and should not exceed 1,500 mg per day. Unfortunately, there isn’t a recommendation for parents regarding sugar intake for children (the recommendation for adults is to limit added sugars to 25 grams a day). Dietitians suggest parents look for added sugars in the ingredient list (including words ending in “ose,” syrups, honey and fruit concentrates, as well as less common words such as cane juice extract, corn syrup and treacle), remembering that four grams of sugar is equal to one teaspoon.
So to cap it all, always feed your baby with the best natural foods in the market. This is absolutely the best way to ensure your child gets only the best nutrition. You can prepare the food at home just as you prepare regular meals then blend or puree the food so baby can take it with ease. Avoid all the hype out there about diets, fancy foods and so on. These may not be healthy for your child and may not do you any good.
While they may be hype as the in thing on the market and even be trending amongst friends, it doesn’t mean your kid should be having them. At this early age, it is better and even recommended that toddlers eat all natural foods. Convenience is probably the number reasons why most parent go for packaged baby foods. There will be nothing convenient with the effects of the foods when they do kick in.