So why is junk food so damaging to babies and toddlers? Babies and toddlers don’t need many calories but what they do need are lots of nutrients, which fuel their physical and mental development. Junk food is empty on nutrients and loaded with calories, which will eave your baby or toddler deprived of essential nutrients. This nutrient deficiency can hinder both physical and mental development.
As natural food specialists we are still confronted each day by parents who are uncertain which food groups to stay clear of (no matter how obvious they maybe). And hey we don’t judge, because lets be honest for every article on what is good for baby to eat, there are several more articles that highlight why the same healthy or super food ingredient is bad.
Here is our list of food groups to stay clear off (and no matter who says otherwise, your baby will benefit)
Fizzy, Slush or Soda Anything
Now most of you reading this are already saying that this is obvious. Well we not so sure. We get invited to kids and babies events across the country and witness first hand the volumes of fizzy drinks and slushes that kids are being fed. The debates between parents are comical (in reality truly sad) as one of them will be saying, ‘let him have it, its only this once’, or ‘let him have it as a treat, he has been good all week’ or my favourite ‘all the others kids are having some, he will feel out of place’.
According to a snap survey of American Dietetic Association of more than 3,000 families, soft drinks are being served to babies as early as 7 months of age! If you are not in this group you frown and wonder how could this be! However if you belong to this group, regular fizzy drinks contains tons of sugar, which can wreak havoc with your baby, as they are unable to eat enough of the nutrient rich foods their body needs. We have witnessed instances where it takes young babies and toddlers almost 2 days to resume normal feeding after ingesting soft drinks.
Oh and please remember that whether it is regular or diet, soft drinks provide absolutely no nutrients.
The great juice debate has been going on for, well …….ever. Parents remain divided over this matter as on the one hand it does come from fruit, however the nutrient carrying fibre in fruit is largely lost in the juicing process. Juice therefore is basically a waste of calories.
Do not be lured by advertising claims that juice contains necessary vitamins especially vitamin C. the reality is that babies can easily get there daily dose from a small piece of fruit. 75 grams of papaya will give a small child their daily dose of vitamin C!
Nutritionist Leanne Cooper says that sugar in these juices can speed up the food’s passage through the digestive tract. “When food passes too quickly, the body doesn’t have time to absorb all those lovely nutrients,” says Cooper who is the author of What Do I Feed My Baby: A Step-by-Step Guide to Solids.
What should your baby drink instead? Paediatricians recommend that babies younger than 6 months drink nothing but breast milk or formula. Babies 6 to 12 months old can have small amounts of water, but breast milk or formula should still be their main beverage. After the first birthday, cows milk is recommended.
Crackers & Biscuits
The pack sizes and even the actual size of biscuits and crackers make them ultra convenient for parents, but after just a few of these your little ones appetite will be satisfied and leave little room for food that is rich in nutrients. Crackers and biscuits are also the main culprits in causing the ‘sweet tooth’ and the ‘salty tooth’. Yes parent beware of the salty tooth, as toddlers and pre-schoolers are getting more sodium than the recommended daily allowance.
Fruit snacks are the way to go – remember that natural is better. And when it comes to fruit parents need not be concerned about natural sugars – which many fitness professionals are asking adults to omit from diets purely for fat loss reasons. Natural sugars are not harmful to babies in normal amounts (unless your baby has infant diabetes or any other sugar related condition)
Processed meals and foods
It is important that we distinguish processed meals from ready to eat meals, as parents always ask us this question. Quite simply the more a food ingredient is modified from its original form the more processed the food. The problem with processing is that foods often loose nutritional value and in the process gain unhealthy additives.
The ingredients list is always your best guide. Where do emulsifiers grow and what do they eat? Potassium benzoate occurs naturally in? E621, E330 (a type of acid) are summer herbs only found in? Of course all of these are not natural. Consider for a minute that a baby or toddlers digestive system is still immature and therefore put under pressure to digest these unnatural ingredients.
Now ready to eat meals must be considered carefully. Meals that have extremely long shelf life (shelf products such as traditional baby food jars) must be cooked for long periods and high temperatures. This effectively kills nutrition, which often has to be replaced by fortifying them with additives. Refrigerated ready to eat meals for babies are very convenient and gaining in popularity, these are a great option except if they contain preservatives or stabilisers (which many do). Frozen baby food is unsurprisingly increasing in popularity as these meals tend be natural and free from preservative or additives of any type. Interestingly according to the American Frozen Food Institute research, frozen meals loose little if any nutrition and preserve foods naturally.
Desserts & Yoghurts
There is an army of moms (soccer and stay at home) that believe that desserts and yoghurts are not only healthy but also necessary for babies. Why the misconception? Lets start with desserts. As most infant deserts are dairy based, this creates perception that they are healthy for baby. These desserts are generally full of artificial colours, flavours and sugars are should be avoided. Apart from fruit only deserts (again be cautious of fruit deserts made from reconstituted purees or pulps as these tends to loose nutrition), stay away from sugar-laden deserts.
As for yoghurts, the problem is not so much the base yoghurt as it is the sugar and flavouring. Best to purchase good quality plain double cream yoghurt and add fresh fruit for flavour and taste.
The question I am always asked by parents is, is it worth the effort as eventually kids eat sugar and all sorts of other junk foods as they grow past 3 to 5 years old? Quite simply good habits formed early on, stay with kids. In most instances we find that the parents are the ones that reverse the good work done early on, by making it ok to cheat. Cheating is ok as a once a quarter practice, but when it becomes more frequent like once a month or worse still once a week (the famous weekend treats), children latch on that its ok to have junk foods.
Go natural, real food = real taste.
by: Dhrupal Amin
Sources:Baby Centre; AAPA, AFFI,