A new study, published in the journal Pediatrics, indicates that many packaged meals and snacks for toddlers contain worrisome amounts of salt and sugar. This is a major concern because it could potentially give kids an early preference for foods that may contribute to obesity and high blood pressure.
Researchers at the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention analyzed package information and labels for more than 1,000 foods marketed for infants and toddlers in 2012. They did not mention any brands, but toddler dinners like toddler dinners including packaged macaroni and cheese, mini hot dogs, rice cakes, crackers, dried fruit snacks and yogurt treats were tested.
It was found that about seven in 10 toddler dinners contained too much salt. According to the Institute of Medicine recommendations, foods for toddlers should contain no more than about 210 milligrams of salt or sodium per serving, but the average for toddler meals studied was 361 milligrams which is almost 1.5 times higher than the normal limit.
There was also there was excess sugar in most cereal bars, breakfast pastries and snacks for infants and toddlers. On average, dry fruit-based snacks contained 60 grams of sugar and 66 percent of calories from total sugars. The most commonly used added sugars were fruit juice concentrate (56 percent), sugar (33 percent), cane (20 percent), syrup (15 percent), and malt (7 percent).
"We also know that about one in nine children have blood pressure above the normal range for their age, and that sodium, excess sodium, is related to increased blood pressure. A substantial proportion of toddler meals contained an added sugar. It's just additional calories that aren't needed," said the CDC's Mary Cogswell, the study's lead author.
Experts advise parents to read nutrition labels and choose products lower in added sugar and sodium. Reducing sodium and sugar intake early on can help set taste preferences and help children make healthy food choices later in life.
With inputs from Associated Press and American Academy of Pediatrics