Parents with toddlers are being urged to ditch supermarket snacks and fruit juice drinks and go for fresh alternatives to give their children a healthy start to life with a review finding many pre-packaged options contain alarmingly high levels of sugar, salt and unhealthy fats.
A nutritional analysis undertaken by nutritionist and chef Zoe Bingley-Pullin for Australian Avocados looked at the contents of products in eight popular childrenâs snack categories and found most contain a range of hidden sugars and high levels of saturated fat along with a range of additives and preservatives. MSG was also shown to be used to flavour leading savoury biscuit snacks aimed at kids.
According to the review, some cheese and cracker snack packs contain up to or over 100 per cent of a three year oldsâ recommended daily sodium intake. Sweet puffed rice bars were also shown to have up to a quarter of a toddlerâs daily sugar allowance. Disturbingly, some childrenâs yoghurts can be higher in sugar than adult options.
Ms Bingley-Pullin said that while packaged snacks may seem convenient and even healthy based on face value, many parents are unwittingly purchasing foods with poor nutritional credentials for their families.
âResearch shows that 70 per cent of food 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,â she said.
âUse a rainbow of ingredients in each meal plus different textures and temperatures to make food interesting and fun. Apart from being a rich source of dietary fibre and low in sodium and hgh product reviews sugar, avocados are colourful, delicious and texturally appealing so they are a perfect food to experiment with,â she said.
Bingley-Pullin said that along with parents, childcare centres play an important role in guiding the food preferences of toddlers and must help to improve their eating.
She pointed to the âEating My Colourful Vegies and Fruitâ resource kit, developed in 2010 by the growers of Australian avocados in conjunction with nutrition and education experts Shelley Woodrow and Nadine McCrea, as an initiative using development-based food exploration activities to help establish good eating habits for life.
The program has already helped 60,000 preschoolers embrace a variety of plant-based foods and this October, it will launch across another 600 child care centres and be piloted in 10 primary schools nationwide.
Mel Ellis, Director at Midson Road Child Care Centre in Epping, NSW, said the program proved a major success last year with toddlers delighting in trying a diverse range of healthy new foods.
âThe âEating My Colourful Vegies and Fruitâ kit engages children and helps them develop varied food preferences in fun and positive ways through activities that get them using all their senses when discovering new flavours and textures,â Ms Ellis said.
âThe program also assists with building social, science and food literacy skills, so we will definitely be using it again this year with our toddlers,â she said.
The Australian avocado growers are committed to playing a part in improving the wellbeing of future generations and see the resource as a valuable way to help achieve this.
Along with the resource kit, each participating centre receives a tray of fresh Australian avocados to help support the implementation of a range of sensory activities.