A study by Australian consumer advocacy group Choice found that many snacks sold for young children have misleading packaging that belies the high sugar content. Choice studied 78 packaged baby foods, comparing package pictures and product claims with nutritional information and ingredient lists, and found that 58% contained added sugars that are harmful to children’s health, with the worst ones containing over 60% sugar. .
Rachel Clemons, publisher of Choice, says marketing gimmicks make these products seem more useful than they really are. “Many people use pictures of healthy fruit or make claims like ‘made from real fruit’ to give parents a false sense of security.” While 54% of the Choice packages reviewed contained images of whole fruit, the study found that “Often a fruit ingredient is actually a fruit concentrate, paste, or puree used to sweeten the product and has little to do with the whole fruit it comes from.” made.” is derivative.
Jane Martin, executive director of the Anti-Obesity Coalition, said fruit paste is made “by sifting [fruit], boiling it and removing all the water until it turns into a handful of sugar.” “Processed fruit sugar is just as bad as cane sugar,” Martin said. In addition to the potential health effects, including tooth decay and unhealthy weight gain, Martin said these packaged snacks “teach kids a preference for…sweet food.”
Baby foods heavily processed
The Choice study also found that many baby foods were heavily processed and lacked a lot of nutritional value. Although baby food is sodium regulated, there is no regulation of the sugar content of foods, and there are no specific regulations for foods sold to toddlers.
Over the past 15 years, Martin has seen the expansion of the supermarket’s baby food section, fueled by the industry’s appeal to parents who want to support their child’s healthy development. But Choyce, Martin and Dr. Rosemary Stanton, a public health nutritionist and visiting research fellow at the University of New South Wales School of Health Sciences, say no special foods are needed for this age group.
Whole foods preferred over processed foods
“This is a marketing exercise, not a health exercise,” Stanton said. “Once you start giving kids separate meals, people start thinking they shouldn’t eat normal food. The idea is that from 12 months they should have a family meal, not a special meal.” Stanton said the products were also expensive, of little value due to their small size, and “what you pay for is sugar.” “We need to teach kids to eat healthier so they go to school with healthy eating habits without thinking they need something out of the package.”
In the Stanton, Martin and Choice study, all agreed whole foods were preferred over processed foods. “My best advice for parents of preschoolers is to talk to the parents of your child’s friends and they will all agree that you won’t put bags in their lunch, or agree to only do it one day a week,” Stanton said. . . Stanton often hears about the difficulties parents face in persuading their children to eat fruits and vegetables. She said both research and her own experience show that one of the best ways to get kids to eat fruits and vegetables is to give kids access to a garden, whether it’s a home garden, a community garden, a school garden, or even a garden. balcony – especially if they play a role in it.
“Once they see something growing, they’re much more interested in eating it,” Stanton said. While the Choice poll also found whole foods like “fresh fruit chunks, vegetable sticks, cheese cubes, plain yogurt, or whole grain toast” to be the best snacks for kids, they also offer advice to healthcare professionals to make informed choices if they want the convenience of a prepackaged snack. In addition to checking fruit concentrates, pastes, purees and powders, “aim for products with a small list of ingredients … whole foods whenever possible,” Clemons said.
Choyce, Martin, and Stanton believed that there was a need for better government regulation in this area, in particular by establishing higher labeling standards. Martin noted that the nutrition information panels list all sugars and do not distinguish between naturally occurring sugars in foods and those added by the manufacturer. Added sugars can be disguised under different names. “Food labels must accurately reflect ingredients and not confuse consumers,” Martin said.