General Manager, Little Dinners
What we feed our little ones determines how they feed themselves in the future. Over the past 24 years of feeding Irish preschool children no-salt and no-sugar meals, we have learned a lot.
According to the HSE, children under six should have no more than 5g of added sugar and 2g of salt a day. Excess salt and sugar can be problematic to young children’s developing kidneys and overall health. Babies’ taste buds are highly sensitive to salt and sugar, making it easy for them to develop an unhealthy preference for sweet and salty foods.
Products marketed for babies can contain high levels of salt or sugar. A single brand-named baby biscuit that my toddler loves contains 4.15g of sugar — over 80% of her recommended daily allowances (RDA).
Read food labels to uncover salt and sugar in children’s food
1. Focus on what the packaging doesn’t say. Marketing might use words like ‘nutritious’ and ‘balanced’ to distract us from a product’s high salt or sugar content.
2. Bear in mind the front of the packaging tends to have the typical RDA of an adult, which is significantly higher than a child’s (50g of sugar and 6g of salt).
3. Nutritional information is typically based on 100g. Remember to calculate the intake based on the amount your child is eating.
Products using stocks and gravies can contain salt while still falling under the ‘no added salt’ umbrella.
Control the salt and sugar in our children’s diets at mealtimes
1. Swap fruit yoghurt (added sugars) for plain yoghurt and real fruit.
2. Swap processed breakfast cereals for porridge.
4. Avoid ingredients with hidden salt or sugars. Pre-cooked meats may contain added salt. Products using stocks and gravies can contain salt while still falling under the ‘no added salt’ umbrella.
3. Opt for chopped tomatoes or passata over jars or sachets of sauces.
4. Look for whole ingredients (fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables) and original ingredients like herbs and spices to add flavour.
Helping children develop a taste for healthier food
Helping children develop a preference for lower salt and sugar foods gives them a taste for healthy eating that follows them into their adult life, helping reduce their risk of dietary-related diseases. At Little Dinners, we will continue providing Irish childcare providers with no salt/sugar meals to feed future generations and are proud to say that we are now feeding the children of some of the preschool children we were feeding back in the 2000s.