What's in your toddler's food?
Between your child's picky taste and your busy schedule, convenience foods are often the easiest choice. But what is really in these everyday quick foods we feed our children?
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In a fast-paced world, feeding our children often comes down to whatever is instant, microwaveable or puts a smile on their faces. But just because a meal or drink has Spiderman on the label does not mean it’s the best nutritional option for your child. The common foods you may feed your toddler are not as innocent as they seem.

Here, The Good Life Dietitians from Johannesburg (www.goodlifedietitians.blogspot.com) break down the lurking problems in the foods you may be giving your toddler and give you alternatives that won’t have you spending hours in the kitchen.

Instant noodles

A favourite of both moms and tots, instant noodles are high in GI (bad for concentration and blood glucose control), colourants and flavourants. One serving of instant noodles contains an average of 990mg of sodium. This is almost the total recommended amount of sodium a toddler should eat per day – yikes!

The healthier choice

Durum wheat pasta is affordable and has a low GI content. Add your toddler’s favourite sauce and you have a winning meal.

Kids' fruit juice 

Anything that has fruit in it is healthy, right? Nope. Fruit juices (which are often thought of as the healthy alternative to fizzy drinks) are concentrated with fruit sugars (fructose) and some also contain added sucrose. One 250ml serving of juice can contain 30g of sugar – that’s six teaspoons of sugar.

The healthier choice 

Replace fruit juice with milk or water, or dilute 100 percent fruit juice with water. You can also make diluted fruit juice iced lollies or even yoghurt lollies. These will keep your child busy and they will actually “eat” less juice and sugar. Make them into a treat by adding pieces of fruit.

Instant mash or fried chips 

Yes, potato is a vegetable – but don’t be fooled into thinking mash and chips are healthy. Fried chips are packed with sodium and fat, and instant mash contains many additives.

The healthier choice 

Replace instant mash with sweet potato mash for a low GI option. Make it in bulk and freeze in small amounts to reheat when needed. Replace fried chips with oven baked baby potato or sweet potato wedges – both low GI. Cut into pieces, sprinkle with olive oil, bake and enjoy. Kids’ meals at restaurants almost always contain chips. Remember that you don’t have to order off the kiddie menu – rather order a half portion off the adults’ menu.

High-sugar cereal 

Kids’ cereal is often artificially coloured and flavoured with food additives. It is also high in GI and contains large amounts of sugar. Per 100g, high fibre bran flakes will contain 17g of sugar while 100g of kids’ cereal may contain 31g of sugar. Sugar is especially bad for insulin levels, concentration levels and dental health.

The healthier choice 

Replace with low GI cereals, wholewheat cereals or oats. If your child can't be dragged away from the bright figurines, buy a kids' cereal that is high in fibre and low in sugar. 

Microwave mini pizza 

The base is made with refined flour, meaning that it is high in GI. One frozen pizza is extremely high in sodium (700mg) and fat (24mg).

The healthier choice 

Add tomato and cheese on top of a wholegrain wrap and place under the grill. Let your child add his own veggie toppings from a few choices placed in front of him.

Hamburger patties and chicken nuggets

Choosing chicken nuggets instead of hamburgers at the take-away? Neither are all that healthy. Both are processed meats that contain MSG and other falvourants. They are very high in sodium and fat, with ten chicken nuggets containing up to 25g of fat and 1000mg of sodium. Additionally, one 40g of sausage or vienna contains 500mg of sodium and 10g of fat. 

The healthier choice

Try homemade meat balls, patties made with lean mince, or stir fried chicken strips. Don't have time? But a whole roast chicken from your supermarket and cut it up. 

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