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With so many options out there, it can be hard to know which snacks are best for your toddler. Supermarkets are filled with eye-catching packaging and different health claims, it can be difficult to know which will provide the most nutrition for your growing child. Luckily, we’re here to clear the confusion, help you understand how to read a nutrition label, and confidently navigate how to find healthy snacks for toddlers.
Food labels are found on any packaged food product. They tell you what ingredients the product is made from, correct storage methods, and who manufactured the product.
It will also include a Nutrition Information Panel (NIP). This table outlines the different nutrients found in the food product and how much of each nutrient there is. It is a key indicator of how healthy the food is. However they can be tricky to understand. Read further for a breakdown on how to interpret an NIP.
You will usually find an ingredient list on the back or side of packaging. Ingredients are listed from greatest to smallest based on the proportion of the ingredient in the product. That means the ingredient listed first, is present in the largest amount compared to the other ingredients.
In Australia, we use percentage labeling to show the percentage of key or characterising ingredients. This will appear as a percentage in brackets next to an ingredient to represent the proportion it makes up of the main ingredients in the food. For example in a Strawberry Yoghurt, this would look like: Strawberry (10%), to show that the strawberries make up 26% of the food product. Where a key ingredient is called out, the percentage must be declared, according to Food Standards Australia New Zealand guidelines.
It is a good idea to check the first three ingredients listed, to identify any foods high in saturated fat, sodium (salt), or added sugar.
In Australia, it is mandatory that manufacturers truthfully identify the ingredients in their food products. So you can rest assured that you know what is going into your toddler’s mouth.
However, food manufacturers can be sneaky in disguising certain ingredients. We’ll look into this below.
Sugars can be added to foods for a few reasons, including flavour and for the purpose of extending shelf-life.
But did you know there are multiple different names for sugar?
Yep! Food manufacturers can choose to use different words to disguise its sugar content to the reader. Below are some of the other names that can be used to label added sugars, without ever mentioning the word sugar:
And the list goes on! So you can see how sneaky food manufacturers can be with their ingredient labelling.
The same goes for fats. Some ingredients to be on the lookout for that are high in saturated fats include:
Avoiding these products completely is not necessary, but diets high in added sugars and saturated fats are associated with negative health outcomes.
If you identify one of these ingredients within the first three in an ingredients label, it’s important to bear in mind that they make up the largest proportion of the food.
Like the ingredient list, a nutrition information panel can usually be found on the back or side of packaging. The NIP provides the overall nutrition profile of the food product and is a good indicator of how healthy the food is.
Being confident in understanding an NIP is important in finding healthy snacks for toddlers.
Food manufacturers may choose to also display other nutrients like fibre and calcium.
Within an NIP you can also find the serving size and how many serves there are in the packet. The nutrition breakdown is presented ‘per serve’ and ‘per 100g’. If you want to compare more than 1 product, you should use the ‘per 100g’ column’.
The kJ is a measure of how much energy the food provides. This is made up from the protein, fat, carbohydrate and fibre values of the food. Rather than focusing on the amount of energy in food, choose foods that are made up of nourishing ingredients. Your toddler will then decide how much energy they need. Discretionary foods are considered to be 600kJ a serve, so you can keep this value in mind when picking healthy snacks for your toddler.You can use this value to determine how much a serve of discretionary or ‘sometimes’ food, which is considered to be 600kJ.
On an NIP, fats are broken down into total fat and saturated fat (unhealthy fat)(unhealthy fat). Generally, it is best to choose foods with a total fat value of less than 10g per 100g (you can find this in the ‘per 100g’ column).
For milks and yoghurt, aim for less than 2g per 100g of total fat. For cheese, choose less than 15g per 100g.
The less saturated fat, the better; so always try and aim for the lowest option. Less than 3g of saturated fat per 100g is a good aim.
The sugars included in the NIP include naturally occurring sugars (like those found in fruit) and added sugars. Foods that claim to have ‘no added sugar’ can still have high amounts of naturally occurring sugar.
If a product has more than 15g of sugar per 100g, it’s best to check the ingredient list for the types of sugars present in the food.
For better health outcomes and dental health, the less sugar, the better.
Just like saturated fats and sugar, the lower the sodium, the better.
A guide to use is:
Less than 400mg per 100g is good, and less than 120mg per 100g is best.
Not all NIPs will display the fibre content, but if they do:
At least 4g of dietary fibre is considered a good source, and at least 7g is considered an excellent source of fibre.
Food additives can be added to processed foods for multiple reasons:
Food additives added to a food product must be labelled in the ingredients list. Sometimes they are spelt out in full, or sometimes they are represented by a code, e.g E415 is xanthan gum.
In Australia, all food additives undergo rigorous safety testing before being approved.
If you’re looking for any potential allergens, the ingredient list is the place to look.
The most common allergens must be displayed, no matter how small the amount. This includes wheat, peanuts, tree nuts, shellfish, fish, cow’s milk, eggs, soybeans, sesame and lupin. They are easily identified with bold text.
An allergy summary statement is mandatory and can be found near the ingredient list. The statement starts with the word ‘contains’ and must list the common food allergens.
‘May contain’ statements are used to indicate possible unintended presence of allergens during food production. However these statements are only voluntary, meaning brands are not required to identify any possible cross contaminations.
If your child has a known food allergy and are avoiding certain ingredients, you can always reach out to the manufacturer and get further details about the processing of the food, to assess you risk.
Nutrition and health claims on food packaging can be super confusing and misleading! They can make it quite difficult to know what snacks are good for toddlers. They’re used to grab your attention, however some claims like ‘pure’, ‘fresh’, and ‘natural’ aren’t regulated in Australia- proving just how sneaky some brands can be!
It’s always best to check the nutrition information panel for the most accurate information.
Navigating the supermarkets and choosing healthy toddler snacks is no easy feat. But you’re now equipped with all the information you need to choose healthy supermarket snacks for kids.
To make things even easier, you can find and purchase our full range of kids snacks online. With a focus on whole food and real ingredients, your toddler is sure to enjoy these healthy snacks!
Shop and Order now! https://www.nourishingbubs.com/collections/all
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