Patient Resources

Prepackaged toddler foods often contain too much salt and sugar



Need another reason to make your toddler dinner instead of feeding him a prepackaged meal? New research shows a large number of dinners, snacks, and desserts sold in the United States that are designed for toddlers contain added sugar and salt, leaving them at risk for developing hypertension and diabetes later on in life.

Fortunately, commercial foods made for infants (vegetables, dinners, plain fruit without grains, dry cereals) sold in the United States tend to have little sugar and sodium added. But parents should still try to limit salty snacks, sweet desserts, and juice drinks, because they often contain more salt and sugar than kids need.

Approximately 79% of U.S. children aged 1-3 years eat more sodium than is recommended by the Institute of Medicine, noted Mary E. Cogswell, DrPH, a researcher from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in a study published in Pediatrics.

Parents may want to check nutrition labels for sodium and added sugar in their toddler's food. ©Purestock/

Parents may want to check nutrition labels for sodium and added sugar in their toddler's food.

Dr. Cogswell and her team of researchers looked at package information for 1,074 food products sold in the United States in 2012 that was marketed to infants, toddlers, or both.

Seventy-two percent of toddler dinners examined contained added sodium, and 32% percent of toddler dinners contained added sugar; 52% of ready-to-serve mixed grains and fruits contained too much added sugar. The majority of dairy-based desserts (70%) and fruit juices (88%) intended for both infant and toddler consumption also contained added sugar.

Limiting how much sugar and salt your children are exposed to can go a long way in preventing obesity and high blood pressure, so parents should look carefully at labels when selecting what foods to buy for toddlers.

“Key advice for parents includes limiting juice and avoiding sugar-sweetened beverages and energy-dense, nutrient-poor snacks; if purchasing commercial toddler foods, the labels should be checked for sodium and added sugar,” the authors wrote.

Next Article: