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Baby Food: Is it Loaded with Sodium & Sugar?

From the Show: Healthy Children
Summary: Do your kiddos eat commercially prepared foods? They may be loaded with sugar and sodium.
Air Date: 2/4/15
Duration: 10
Host: Melanie Cole, MS
Guest Bio: Mary Cogswell, RN, DrPH.
CogswellMary Edmonds Cogswell, RN, DrPH, is a Senior Scientist with the Epidemiology and Surveillance Branch, Division for Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Georgia. She received a Masters of Public Health in Health Services Research, and a Doctorate of Public Health in Nutritional Epidemiology from Johns Hopkins University, School of Public Health, Baltimore, Maryland. Dr. Cogswell’s current research interests are nutrition and cardiovascular disease, with an emphasis on sodium reduction. Dr. Cogswell has presented nationally and internationally, authored over 100 peer-reviewed publications, mentored students and fellows, provided technical assistance to state, national, and international organizations, and served as an editorial board member for the Journal of Nutrition.
Baby Food: Is it Loaded with Sodium & Sugar?
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STAFF WRITER
Childhood obesity continues to rise, with 23 percent of American children aged two to five years being overweight or obese. It’s becoming more important than ever to start feeding children healthy diets early in life, but simply shopping for “healthy” food for young kids can be challenging. A new study found that significant amounts of prepackaged infant and toddler foods contain very high levels of sodium and sugar. As a parent, should you still be feeding these foods to your children?

Many Foods Contain Extra Sodium

The study examined over 1,000 different infant and toddler foods, comparing the information found on nutritional facts label. The good news here is that the study found infant food to generally contain low sodium. What was surprising, however, was that more than seven in 10 packaged toddler meals contained too much sodium.

Worse still, a substantial proportion of both infant and toddler foods contained at least one added sugar; even foods that don’t appear to be sweet on the outset. There are different types of sugar, but the packaged foods contained simple sugars… exactly what you don’t want to feed your children. An example of simple sugars includes cane sugar and fruit juice concentrate.

So how much sodium is considered too much? The Institute of Medicine’s (IOM) dietary reference intake recommends that children consume no more than 1,500 mg of sodium per day. Unfortunately, around 79 percent of children in the United States between the ages of one and three exceed the upper level of sodium.

It can be easy to lose track of sodium intake, especially in a child, so you need to come up with smaller definitions. A child has an average of seven servings per day, so dividing the 1,500 mg of recommended sodium yields around 250 mg per serving, at most. Armed with this knowledge, you’ll be able to better understand just how much sodium is packed into pre-made meals once you see that some contain as much as 900 mg per serving.

Endorse Healthy Eating at a Young Age

Dr. Mary Edmonds Cogswell, RN, DrPH, is a senior scientist at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and served as an editorial board member for the Journal of Nutrition. Dr. Cogswell’s primary interest is reducing sodium intake across the board, and believes in the importance of introducing healthy whole foods into your child’s diet.

Feed your children as many fruits and vegetables as possible without added sauces, salts, or sugars, urges Dr. Cogswell. Children will develop a taste for healthy foods, and what they eat during the early stages of life will help determine what they enjoy eating as they grow older. This in turn will help them to love eating wholesome foods from a very early age.

Some young children can be very picky, and it may take as much as eight tries before they like a certain food. If they are under the age of six, limit the amount of sugar, sweets, and beverages that are presented to them as much as possible. Some foods, such as pretzel sticks or yogurt, can seem healthy at first. Check the labels, as these foods can sometimes have extra dyes, sugar, or sodium added.

Indeed, Dr. Cogswell strongly encourages parents to realize that you are the one who dictates what your family eats, goes shopping for food, and puts the food on the table. Some foods are not as healthy as they first appeared, so it’s important to double-check the labels before feeding something to your children.

Alonso is a long-time health and wellness advocate who loves to write about it. His writing spans the scope of blogs, educational magazines, and books, both on and offline.

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