Shop-bought children’s food often contains more sugar than you might think. That’s why it’s important to check the label and look out for added sugars in the ingredient list. Sugar is sometimes hidden under a variety of names such as barley malt syrup, high fructose corn syrup, fruit juice concentrate, dextrose, fructose, sucrose, glucose, crystalline sucrose and nectars.
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.
The Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition recommends that children aged 1-3 should have no more than 13g of added sugars a day. 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.
Children’s food shouldn’t have salt added - a child up to 3 years old shouldn’t have more than 2g of salt a day (0.8g of sodium). When cooking for the family, be wary of ingredients like stock cubes and gravy as they are notoriously high in salt. Reading food labels is a great habit to get into, and remember that ‘salt’ and ‘sodium’ are not the same. 2g salt is the equivalent of 0.8g sodium.
All Little Dish meals are classed as “low in salt”, which means that they have to contain less than 0.30g of salt per 100g. Some of our ingredients, such as cheese or breadcrumbs, contain very small levels of salt, but we work hard to source the ingredients with the very lowest levels possible, and never add any extra salt when we make our meals.
Additives and preservatives
Food additives are ingredients added to foods for several reasons, for example to enhance flavour or to give them colour. An E number is a reference number given to food additives and these can apply to both ‘good and bad’ additives. We do not use additives in our products as we only make our meals with ingredients that you would have in your store cupboard at home.
Preservatives keep food safe for longer to stop moulds and bacteria growing on them. However, our meals do not need to have preservatives added to them because they are chilled, so your little one can experience the tastes and textures of food cooked with the ingredients you would use at home.
Common food additives
Colours are used to make food more attractive. They can be natural in origin such as curcumin (E100), a yellow extract of turmeric roots, or artificial such as tartrazine (E102). There are six colours that are linked to hyperactivity in children and should be avoided: E110 (sunset yellow), E102 (tartrazine), E122 (carmoisine), E124 (ponceau 4R), E129 (allura red), E104 (quinoline yellow).
Preservatives such as E211 (sodium benzoate) have also been linked with hyperactivity in some children and E220 (sulphur dioxide) can worsen asthma symptoms in some sufferers.
Sweeteners are used with or instead of sugar to make food taste sweet. Examples include aspartame (E951), saccharin (E954) and sorbitol (E420). Whilst these have been widely tested for safety when eaten in moderate amounts, many people prefer to limit or avoid them.