Toddlers need a balanced diet for healthy growth and development and selecting the right foods can be a challenge to any parent. Food labels contain lots of useful information, but they can be confusing and do not always tell you everything you need to know.
- Food that is labelled as being suitable for infants and toddlers under the age of 3 years must comply with strict EU and Irish regulations on the nutrient content and what it can and cannot contain.
- Food labels must contain information on ingredients, guidance on storage, a ‘best before date’ and instructions for use.
- Food labelling laws do not apply to fresh food or to individual packs within multipacks.
- The amount of sodium/salt, fat and sugar on a label represents the total amount including any added amounts.
- Do not expect any foods to be naturally sugar-free as there are natural sugars in most foods. Naturally occurring sugars are lactose which is in milk, fructose which is in fruit and maltose in starchy foods. The total sugars on the label ‘carbohydrate – of which sugars’ includes the naturally occurring sugars in some of the ingredients and any sugar added.
- Added sugar can be in various forms e.g. sucrose (table sugar), dextrose.
- Sodium is a component of salt and sodium or salt are present in most foods. The total sodium on the label includes the sodium in the ingredients and any salt added to enhance flavour, as part of the cooking process or as a preservative.
- Check the ingredients list for added sugar and salt.
- When looking for low sugar foods, compare the sugar content of similar foods.
- The ingredients are listed in descending order of weight i.e. the ingredient present in the largest amount will be first on the list.
- Manufacturers can make nutrition and health claims on their products, such as ‘low-fat’ or a good ‘source of calcium’. By law this means that the product must contain a certain level of that nutrient, e.g. a source of vitamin D means that the product must contain at least 15% of the recommended daily amount (RDA).
If you would like help in understanding a food label or advice on whether a product is suitable for your toddler, contact our Careline.