Popular baby and toddler snacks contain 'shocking amounts' of sugar, expert warns
Snack foods for babies and toddlers are big business.
And for time-strapped parents, often an easy way to feed our little ones when away from home and on the go.
However, an expert has now warned that many of these snacks are crammed with ‘alarming’ and ‘shocking’ amounts of sugar – and that this can potentially harm children's sense of taste and make them less likely to take to foods that are less sweet, such as vegetables and other healthy foods.
Speaking to the Irish Daily Mail, Professor Donal O’Shea, an obesity expert with the HSE, explains that parents need to be made aware of the high sugar content in the snacks because once toddlers get a taste for sweet foods, it is ‘very difficult for them to diversify into other tastes’ in later life.
The professor was speaking following the publication of a report on baby and toddler snacks from Action On Sugar, which found that of the 73 products analysed – which made healthy-sounding claims on the pack – 37 percent have a ‘very high’ sugar content. In fact, according to the findings of the report, some of these products contained as much as two teaspoonfuls of sugar per serving.
According to the research by Action On Sugar, there were ‘alarming amounts of sugar’ found in many baby and toddler sweet snacks such as biscuits, rusks, oat bars and puffs. In the UK, Action On Sugar is calling for the removal of misleading nutrition and health claims on the packaging of these snacks.
The worst one when it comes to sugar content was Heinz Farley’s Mini Rusks Original, which the researcher found contained 8.7g of sugar per serving – equivalent to two teaspoons – and a whopping 29g of sugar per 100g. Following the finding of the report, Heinz said in a statement:
"Sugar reduction is a key focus for Heinz for Baby and we are looking into ways to improve the products we make."
The problem? On the packaging, these are advertised as suitable for babies aged seven months and older.
Second highest on the list was Organix Banana Soft Oaty Bars, which came in at 8.1g of sugar per serving.
Several products from Kiddylicious' range also scored badly for sugars per 100g.
On the other end of the scale, the product with the lowest sugar content was Nestle’s Cerelac Wheat, Raspberry and Banana Cereal Snake with 'only' 2.8g of sugar per serving.
High-sugar snacks for babies are toddlers are being promoted to parents
Over the course of the past decade, countless snack products for baby and toddlers are cropped up, and are often being marketed to parents and caregivers as something they should be feeding their young children.
‘They’ll advertise and the front of the package will make it look like a health food almost, but when you go into the details it is far from that," O'Shea said.
"The products are widely available in this country and ‘very cynically promoted’ for when children are moving away from breastfeeding."
The problem? Sweet-tasting food is highly addictive and once your palate gets used to sweet at a young age, it could become far more difficult to diversify into the other tastes and textures in later childhood and adolescence.
"It is all processed foods that are very high in fat, sugar and salt. It is a combination of the industry marketing as well as what goes into them."
O'Shea reveals that he finds the messaging around these products problematic, and feel they are being promoted to parents in a way that would make them feel like not giving them this food puts the children at a ‘disadvantage’.
"What we need is parents to have the knowledge to know that there are healthier ways to feed their child and there are programmes run by Healthy Food Made Easy that target educating parents around preparation of their own food for kids, which, if you use the right ingredients, will be naturally low in salt, sugar and fat."