Keep an eye on sugar
Children’s snacks often contain more sugar than you might think. That’s why it’s important to check the label for added sugars in the ingredient list. Sugar is sometimes hidden under many names such as barley malt syrup, high fructose corn syrup, fruit juice concentrate, dextrose, fructose, sucrose, glucose, crystalline sucrose and nectars.
Generally, the less processed a food is, the better. That’s why unrefined sugars, such as honey and molasses, which contain trace minerals, are gaining popularity. But they’re still processed by the body in the same way as all sugar, so they’re best enjoyed sparingly.
What about sweeteners?
We believe that children should learn how food tastes naturally and develop their palate by tasting foods without unnecessary sweeteners, whether natural or artificial. Whilst babies have an inherent preference for sweet, their palates develop through experience, which is why introducing a wide range of flavours is important.
Foods with ‘no added sugar’ are often made with sweeteners, so keep an eye on those too.
What’s meant by added or free sugars?
‘Added’ or ‘free’ sugars are types of sugar that are added to foods either by the manufacturer, the cook or the person eating it. Watch out for foods claiming ‘no added sugar’ that are in fact sweetened with fruit juice or fruit juice concentrates – it all counts.
Naturally occurring sugars, those found in plain dairy foods, whole fruit and vegetables aren’t ‘added’ sugars so we don’t need to cut down on those.
The SACN (Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition) recommends children aged 1-3 should have no more than 13g of added or free sugars a day. A teaspoon of sugar is 4g, so that’s no more than three teaspoons of sugar each day.
A word on salt
Make sure that little children don’t have too much salt in their diets. Their kidneys are still developing and could struggle if there’s too much in their bloodstream. Between 1 and 3 years old, toddlers should have no more than 2 grams of salt a day, which amounts to half a teaspoon (source: nhs.uk).
Most of the salt in our diets is hidden in the food we buy, which is why it’s important to look for foods that have been made specifically for young children, and avoid adding salt when cooking for your toddler.