Find out what to look for, and what to avoid, in baby and toddler snacks. I heard from the experts at Organix HQ as part of the junk buster panel.
Talking about snacks at Organix HQ
I've been working with baby and child snack brand Organix for a few years now as one of their No Junk Journey ambassadors. Recently, they invited us to their lovely HQ in Bournemouth to discuss their latest campaign.
For this campaign, we're exploring the need for #FoodYouCanTrust in the baby and toddler food aisle. I joined a group of fellow bloggers, Molly from Mother's Always Right, Grace from Eats Amazing, Mel from Le Coin de Mel and Filippa from Gourmet Mum to discuss, learn about, and eat snacks.
Trusting the label
I bet if you put a step tracker on a child, they'd walk 30,000 steps a day. I'm tempted to stick one into my son's pocket just to see! My kids can't even walk to school, they run the whole way, challenging each other to be the fastest to reach each lamppost, garden gate or tree. It's exhausting to watch them, and trot along behind!
But all that movement needs fuel, so it's no wonder that they're constantly asking for snacks. They eat breakfast, then bring a tub of raw veggies to school for their 10am snack, have lunch, then a piece of fruit at 2pm. I pick them up at 3, they're famished again and need a snack to make it the 15 minute walk (run) home.
No parent is immune to requests for snacks, but hearing from the experts at Organix HQ made me really sit up and think about the quality of snack foods.
When we reach for a packet of kid-marketed snacks, what's really behind the cartoons on the label? The label might shout 'natural' or 'nutritionist approved', but digging deeper into the ingredients list may result in some shocking findings.
What's really in kids snack foods?
We listened to very interesting talks from Emily Day (Organix Food Development Manager) and Dr Frankie Phillips (Nutrition Advisor to Organix), about what should and shouldn't be in snacks, as well as the role of snacks in a healthy diet for babies and toddlers.
Emily showed us how she chooses healthy ingredients to include in Organix's snack and discussed the importance of quality foods and why ingredients lists should be short and full of recognisable ingredients. It was great to see her passion for making tasty, nutritious snacks for our kids. It can take years from concept to getting snacks onto the shelves and it's refreshing to see that Organix puts our kids, and their health, paramount.
I was astounded to learn that some snacks aimed at babies and toddlers contains as much salt as an adult's packet of crisps. That's shocking and so, so wrong. I'd never sprinkle the salt shaker onto my children's dinner, so I wouldn't expect so much to be hidden in supposedly 'healthy' kids snacks.
I'll give you a minute to digest that. As much salt as an adult packet of crisps. And those packets are shockingly salty, even for adults.
“Children need a diet low in salt. Salty snacks aimed for adults are completely unsuitable for little ones because of the high sodium content, so too are baby finger foods and toddler snacks that contain comparable levels of salt.
Sodium is naturally present in some foods but adding salt to food provides far higher levels of sodium than a toddler needs, so there’s no nutritional benefit and it can be harmful. Over time, if a baby or toddler is given salty foods they develop a preference for salty tastes and this can lead to eating too much salt, with consequences even for their adult health. There’s no nutritional need to add salt to convenience finger foods and snacks, and neither is it necessary for flavour when herbs, spices and tasty ingredients can be used to give flavour.” - Dr Frankie Phillips, Nutrition Advisor to Organix
Why do other manufacturers include salt in their kids snacks? Well, if they use cheaper ingredients, they use it to add flavour. That's why Organix snacks are not only organic, but they use high quality minimal ingredients and zero salt.
See those ingredients above? Those three ingredients, plus a little natural oil, are the only things in their new Cheesy Pea Snacks.
Cheesy Pea Snacks:
Organic cheese powder (100% dehydrated cheese)
Organic sunflower oil
A leading child-targeted puff snack:
Emulsifier: soya lecithin
Hmmm... salt AND sugar, plus whatever modified starch and soya lecithin are. It's impossible to even think of all these ingredients laid out in little piles, as above, because I don't really know what all of them are. What's the difference between potato starch and modified starch? Is soya lecithin a powder or a liquid?
I don't want to feed my kids snacks if I don't know what all the ingredients even are. And I also know that I need to be more vigilant and take the time to read the ingredients list, rather than just trusting that all kids-marketed food have some sort of regulations, legal if not moral, around levels of salt, sugar and additives.
The dangers of salt for babies and toddlers
Dr Frankie Phillips, Nutrition Advisor to Organix, told us more facts about salt. She said that sodium (found in salt as sodium chloride) is needed for healthy nerves and muscles and to keep cells healthy in the body, however, only tiny amounts are needed and the amount in breastmilk and formula provides the right amount for a baby to meet the body's needs.
How much salt is recommended for babies and toddlers?
- From weaning up to 12 mths: Babies should have no more than 1g of salt (0.4g of sodium) per day.
- Between 1 - 3 years: For toddlers the maximum amount of salt per day is 2g (0.8mg), that's less than half a teaspoon.
- These amounts include any salt present in foods (such as bread, cheese), not just salt added at home.
What are the dangers of too much salt for babies and toddlers?
Too much salt can cause damage to immature kidneys. Over time, if babies or toddlers are given salty foods they develop and learn a preference for salty tastes and this can lead to eating too much salt, and consequences even in adult health. In adults a high salt intake is associated with high blood pressure and an increased risk of strokes and heart attacks.
Healthy snacking for babies and toddlers
- Baby finger foods should be nutritious, complementing the other healthy foods the baby is starting to eat and baby’s milk feeds.
- Snacks should provide a nutritional benefit, not just empty calories. See them as an opportunity to get a variety of nutrients and tastes.
- From 12 months, ensure toddlers get all the nutrients they need from a variety of different foods.
- Toddlers need a range of nutritious snacks a couple of times a day, to get the extra nutrients needed to meet their daily requirements.
- Toddlers often need 2-3 healthy snacks per day, in addition to three nutritious meals.
- Avoid really long ingredient lists in shop bought snacks.
- Avoid unrecognisable ingredients.
- Avoid added ingredients such as sugar, salt or flavourings.
Organix have a No Junk Promise – they never add anything unnecessary and are always organic.
Find out more about the Junk Buster event with #FoodYouCanTrust on social media.
What are your thoughts on the confusing claims out there for parents and how easy is it for you to find brands you can trust?
Let me know in the comments!
Disclosure: This post was commissioned by Organix. All opinions are my own.