Packaged meals and snacks marketed for toddlers have too much salt and sugar. Parents should read food labels carefully so that they can make the healthiest food choices for young children.
Seventy-two percent of toddler dinners were found to be high in sodium and contained an average of 2,295 milligrams of sodium for each 1,000 kilocalories of energy they contained. A toddler should get no more than 1,500 milligrams of sodium per day. Savory snacks made for toddlers contained an average of 1,382 milligrams of sodium per 1,000 kilocalories. However, the good news is that almost all infant vegetable dinners, fruits, dry cereals, and ready-to-serve mixed grains and fruit were low in sodium.
Thirty-two percent of toddler dinners and the majority of cereal bars or breakfast pastries, fruit, and dry fruit-based snacks for toddlers contained one or more added sugars. Thirty-five percent of cereal bars/breakfast pastries contained 35% or more of calories from total sugars and one or more added sugar. However, the majority of vegetables, dinners, fruits, and cereals did not contain added sugar.
These findings are from a study conducted by researchers from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention led by Mary Cogswell. They collected nutritional and ingredient data on foods that were sold for babies and toddlers in 2012.
Nutritional content in baby and toddler foods is important because foods high in salt and added sugar get a child in the habit of eating foods that contain them. Almost a quarter of American children aged 2 to 5 are overweight or obese. Almost four out of five children aged 1 to 3 get too much salt per day in their foods, more than 1,500 milligrams. Both being overweight and getting too much salt in food are linked to an increased risk of high blood pressure in children. Foods for toddlers should contain no more than about 210 milligrams of salt or sodium per serving and should get less than 35% per portion of their calories from sugar.
The report was published in the journal Pediatrics.