Purchasing your child’s snacks from the supermarket may be convenient, but a recent review has revealed that many of these processed goods actually contain high amounts of sugar, salt and unhealthy fats.
Nutritionist and chef Zoe Bingley-Pullin looked at the contents in eight popular children’s snack classifications for Australian Avocados. She found that most pre-packaged options have hidden sugars and high levels of saturated fat, along with a range of additives and preservatives.
The review showed that some cheese and cracker snack packs contain up to or over 100 per cent of a three-year-old's recommended daily sodium intake. Sweet puffed rice bars were also shown to have up to a quarter of a toddler’s daily sugar allowance.
Bingley-Pullin said that while packaged snacks may seem seem healthy, it's best to look for fresher options.
“Research shows that 70 per cent of preferences are established at an early age, so to ensure a healthy diet later in life, parents need to stop relying on processed snacks and whip up nutritious options with fresh produce instead, involving little ones in the process wherever possible,” she said.
Other findings included:
- Children’s yogurt: While this is a good source of calcium - and in some cases, has added vitamin D and Omega 3s - some of the products reviewed were generally high in sugar.
- Rolled fruit snacks: The fruit content varied greatly in each product, but these were usually processed with high levels of sugar. A better alternative would be to eat small tubs of fruit packed in natural juice.
- Sweet nut spreads: Hazelnut spreads tend to be high in added sugars and fats, including a high percentage of saturated fat (around 30 per cent on average).
- Savoury biscuit snacks: These snacks tend to have a very high salt and saturated fat content. Some also contain MSG.
- Fruit juice drinks: These are high in sugars; a healthier option would be to drink water or plain milk.
- Cheese and cracker snack packs: On average, these contained processed cheese with a high saturated fat and salt content. The biscuits are full of sugar, salt and processed carbohydrates.
To help establish good eating habits in children, the growers of Australian avocados, along with nutrition and education experts, have developed and implemented the 'Eating My Colourful Vegies and Fruit’ resource kit. This has been introduced into preschools and has already helped 60,000 kids embrace a variety of plant-based foods.
To make nutritious snacks interesting and fun, try serving meals that contain a range of ingredients, textures and temperatures.
Here are some simple recipes to help get you started