Prepackaged Foods for Young Kids Aren’t as Kid-Friendly as They Seem

posted: 05/13/15
by: Blythe Copeland
Prepackaged food for toddlers is not what it's cracked up to be.
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Getting toddlers to eat certain foods can be an uphill battle.

Parents of picky eaters will try almost anything to get their kids to eat a full meal--and convenient, toddler-friendly foods often seem like a quick and easy solution. But according to a study published in Pediatrics, those prepackaged foods aren't as healthy as you may have hoped: Many of them contain high amounts of added sugar and sodium.

The study looked at the nutrients in 1,074 different foods and drinks aimed at infants and toddlers, including vegetables, fruits, dinners, dry cereal, ready-to-eat grains, snacks, and cereal bars. Although most of the infant foods had acceptable levels of sodium and sugar, researchers found that many snacks, desserts, and juices "had higher or equivalent levels of sodium and sugars to products sold for older children or adults." Some salty snacks had the same amount of sodium as regular potato chips, fruit snacks and cereal bars comparable to fruit leather and strawberry toaster pastries, and desserts with a sugar concentration twice that of plain vanilla ice cream.

Since kids can develop a taste for sugar and salt even during babyhood, researchers warn parents to read labels closely before relying on prepackaged snacks and meals for babies and toddlers. A better alternative: Offer fresh fruits and vegetables for snacks and desserts, encourage your kids to choose water over juice, and limit salty snacks throughout the day.

And if that doesn't work, try our tips for easy ways to make meals fun for your picky eater.