Many toddlers eat as much sodium, added sugar as recommended limit for adults, research shows

By Elizabeth Crawford contact

- Last updated on GMT

Source: iStock
Source: iStock

Related tags: Baby food, Nutrition

Parents’ lack of knowledge about how much and what to feed children as they transition from baby food to more solid foods means most toddlers in America eat too much sugar and sodium and not enough whole grains and vegetables, new research reveals. 

Beginning around nine months when most children move away from blended baby food to solid foods there is a significant shift from a relatively well-balanced diet of fruits, vegetable and whole grains to one that increasingly is dominated by sweets, salty snacks and sugar-sweetened beverages, according to analysis of data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey presented at the Experimental Biology conference in early April.

According to the research, which included 11 years of data focused on the dietary patterns of 0- to 2-year-olds, by the time children are one year old less than 30% eat vegetables on any given day and those who do mostly eat potatoes.

In addition, most children eat only about one-third the recommended amount of whole grains, according to the research, which was commissioned by baby food maker Beech-Nut Nutrition Co.

At the same time, about 40% of babies eat brownies, cookies, crackers and salty snacks, the report notes.

The result is “by the time they are a year old, most children are having as much sodium as is recommended as the upper limit for a 150 pound adult,”​ said Nicole Silber, a registered dietitian and pediatric nutrition expert contracted by Beech-Nut Nutrition Company

She explained to FoodNavigator-USA that these “remarkable”​ findings are due in part to parents not understanding how or what to feed their children.

“Parents have great intentions with how to feed their babies, but there really aren’t good guidelines for children under 2 years,”​ she said, noting that the current US Dietary Guidelines start at age 2. However, she added, efforts are underway to develop guidelines for younger children for the 2020 dietary guidelines.

Until then, she said, food manufacturers can help fill the information void – and build brand awareness and consumer trust – by providing educational resources to teach parents what foods to feed their children and how much.

For example, she lauded Beech-Nut for providing in-depth but manageable resources on its blog about how best to introduce solid foods to children – including a web video series featuring Silber.

Offer children a full sensory eating experience

Manufacturers also can help parents teach children to eat healthier by offering products with a full sensory experience that allow children to touch, see and smell the ingredients to help them understand what food is, develop their palates and establish an attraction to healthy ingredients.

“Children need foods that are vibrant, exciting colors and strong flavors,”​ she said.

She discourages parents and manufacturers from falling for the old trope that children don’t want savory foods with herbs and bold spices.

“Kids should eat the same foods as adults, but in smaller portions,”​ she said.

Back off the fruit

Manufacturers and parents should reconsider how much fruit or fruit-based products to feed children as a way to limit their intake of sugar and curb their craving for sweets later in life, Silber said.

She acknowledged that fruit is healthy, but she said most children just need one or two servings of it a day, and parents should try to select products that are more vegetable-forward or savory to help develop a wider range of taste desires. This in turn could lead to a new area of product development for some manufacturers.

Extend the use of baby food

Finally, Silber recommends, that manufacturers of baby foods promote ways to extend consumption of their products beyond the year mark by using them as an ingredient in more complex meals.

For example, she said, for picky eaters who don’t like vegetables, mixing veggie based baby foods into pancakes is a good way to sneak the foods into children. Another option is to swirl fruit-forward baby food into unsweetened yogurt as a way to cut down on added sugar of sweetened yogurt and incorporate more fruits.

Related news

Show more

Related products

show more

Clean-label flavor enhancement and sodium reduction

Clean-label flavor enhancement and sodium reduction

Salt Of The Earth LTD | 01-Jul-2020 | Application Note

Mediterranean Umami is a mixture of plant extracts rich in umami flavor compounds and sea-salt. It is an all-natural and clean-label solution for flavor...

Top Trends Affecting the Growing Snack Category

Top Trends Affecting the Growing Snack Category

AIDP, Inc | 29-Jun-2020 | Infographic

Snacks are growing at double digit rates primarily driven by new forces. Consumers tastes and demographic shifts are propelling snack growth. Consumers...

Beyond amazing plant-based burgers start here!

Beyond amazing plant-based burgers start here!

Roquette: Improving well-being by offering the best of nature | 25-Jun-2020 | Application Note

With demand for plant-based foods up an incredible 278% since this time last year, food and beverage manufacturers are scrambling to boost their catalog...

Unlock Innovative Opportunities with ADM

Unlock Innovative Opportunities with ADM

ADM | 23-Jun-2020 | Sponsored Link

You’re looking for insights-driven opportunities created by the unprecedented challenges of the food & beverage development industry.


Related suppliers

Follow us


View more