Think twice before buying pre-packaged toddler food

For a long time experts have known there was too much salt and sugar in common pre-packaged foods, but it appears the issue is not…

Toddlers’ meals are often too high in sodium and sugar. (Shutterstock)

For a long time experts have known there was too much salt and sugar in common pre-packaged foods, but it appears the issue is not unique to just adult items.

According new research from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), pre-packaged foods designed for toddlers often contain 1.5 times the amount of recommended sodium per serving. Whats more, 60 percent of the average toddler’s caloric intake per portion is sugar; the Institute of Medicine (IOM) recommends toddlers take in no more than 35 percent of calories from sugar.

SEE ALSO: Childhood obesity: A preventable epidemic gone too far

“Commercial toddler foods and infant or toddler snacks, desserts and juice drinks are of potential concern due to sodium or sugar content,” researchers wrote, as reported by MNT.

“Pediatricians should advise parents to look carefully at labels when selecting commercial toddler foods and to limit salty snacks, sweet desserts and juice drinks.”

Though no brand names were specifically cited in the research, the CDC team primarily looked at popular brands of baby food, toddler dinners including packaged macaroni and cheese, mini hot dogs, rice cakes, crackers, dried fruit snacks and yogurt treats.

Teach children to eat clean.

Toddler meals are healthier when homemade with whole foods. (Shutterstock)

Seven out of 10 toddler meals were found to be too high in sodium and sugar, things experts indicate could easily be contributing to the obesity epidemic among children.

Childhood obesity has more than doubled in children over the past 30 years, and the most recent statistics available indicate more than one-third of children and adolescents are overweight or obese.

In addition to obesity, more and more children are being diagnosed with high blood pressure, a consequence of too much sodium in the diet.

“We also know that about one in nine children have blood pressure above the normal range for their age, and that sodium, excess sodium, is related to increased blood pressure,” said lead authors Mary Cogswell to ABC News.

“Blood pressure tracks from when children are young up through adolescence into when they’re adults. Eating foods which are high in sodium can set a child up for high blood pressure and later on for cardiovascular disease.”

Cogswell indicates that, while the study does come off as alarming based on the data found, the majority of individual toddler foods don’t exceed the IOM recommendation of 210 mg of sodium per serving.

It is parents’ choice of foods for a meal that often send sodium levels through the roof. Sugar, on the other hand, was more of a concern, with many individual food items containing added sweeteners.

“The good news is that the majority of infant foods were low in sodium,” said Cogswell. “…seven out of 10 toddler foods were high in the amount of sodium per serving and…a substantial proportion of toddler meals and the majority of other toddler foods and infant’s and toddler’s snacks contained an added sugar.”

The other good news is that parents can easily take control of sodium and sugar levels in toddler meals. IT all comes down to making healthy choices, according to researchers.

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Though it is tempting for parents on busy schedules to opt for quick and easy meals like pre-packaged macaroni and cheese, these are the food items that contain the higher levels of sodium and sugar.

For children to eat their healthiest, homemade meals of lean protein, whole grains and organic fruits and vegetables are best.