Infant and Toddler Snacks - Healthy or Gimmick?
Updated: Oct 27
The topic of this article is the plethora of commercial snacks marketed for infants and toddlers. Little ones need to have snacks, usually 1-2 a day. I advocate considering snacks as mini-meals or a smaller version of the food you would serve at a meal. I will present information that may make you think twice about what you buy and give you healthier options.
Mom shopping for healthy snacks...so many to choose from!
As with many commercial and processed foods, marketing tactics convince us these are healthy choices. However, reading labels tells us otherwise. Often, foods marketed for children, as we see in cereals, have added sugar, which is listed in many forms. The FDA now requires manufacturers to show the amount of added sugar in a product. Sweeteners have many different names, which sound better than sugar or sucrose. In fact, there are at least 60 names for sweeteners on labels!
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A C X Y L I T O L R
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E O R K C A N E Y S
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Sugars are listed by so many names in an ingredient list, its like searching a word puzzle!
This is a partial list of sugar synonyms to look for:
Any word with sugar - brown, beet, cane, coconut, confectioners, powdered, turbinado sugars, etc.
High-fructose corn syrup
Corn syrup solids
Evaporated cane juice
Fruit juice concentrate
Glucose syrup solids
Any sugar names ending in -ose:
dextrose, fructose, galactose, glucose, lactose, maltose, sucrose, sucralose
Sugar alcohols ending in -itol
Erythritol, lactitol, maltitol, sorbitol, xylitol
Sweeteners like stevia, aspartame, sucralose, and acesulfame potassium
This is just a partial list! Sugars are added in so many different forms and with so many names that they make them hard to identify.
Should any of the above appear in the first three ingredients... leave it on the shelf.
Or, look for the grams of added sugar under total sugars.
The FDA requires that added sugars be listed on food labels.
Most kid granola bars are full of sweeteners.
Veggie stick chips lack fiber and protein and have very little vegetable content.
Fruit snacks have no fiber or protein and are loaded with sugar.
Toddler yogurts are full of sugar.
Plain Greek yogurt with your own fruit or crunchies is healthier. Although there are no-added-sugar brands of yogurt, these tend to be more expensive and not any different from regular Greek yogurt.
There are a few commercial products that do provide wholesome snack foods for little ones, but realize you are paying for the gimmick that there really are foods specific for toddlers. It is a marketing ploy since toddlers can eat what adults eat. Prepackaged snacks are convenient when you need something on the go, but you can take your own packaged snacks. If you missed it, read last week’s article about on-the-go meal and snack ideas.
Making snacks with the food you eat and have at home is less expensive. This is also likely healthier without as many additives and preservatives.
Snacks can easily be made from food you have at home.
Use snack time as a way to offer more fruit and vegetables.
Here are some items to keep on hand:,
Nut butter with veggie sticks or whole-grain crackers
Soft fruit -bananas, avocado, mandarin oranges, or canned fruit packed in water (not syrup)
Avocado and guacamole
Air fryer sweet potato wedges
Homemade fruit and veggie muffins
Whole wheat crackers
Whole grain cheerios
Corn tortillas with melted cheese
Think of snacks as a mini meal.
My best guidance is to look at labels - check for total and added sugars, saturated fat, and salt content. Look at the length of the ingredient list. The fewer the ingredients, the better. Any sweeteners should not be listed high in the ingredient list (top 3-5) since these are listed in decreasing concentration.
Just because something says "no added sugar" does not mean it is low in sugar. Check for the number of additives, preservatives, and colorants to see if the item is loaded with chemicals.
Once you start reading labels, you quickly learn that you can feed your child healthier than snack manufacturers try to convince you!