It has long been my view that we directly contribute to our childrenʼs “selective” (the politically-correct term for “picky”) palates by feeding them sweet & salty foods from the time they begin to feed themselves, causing them to develop a taste for processed, high-sugar and high-sodium foods.
The June 2011 issue of the Journal of Public Health recently provided scientific support for my theory. That issue contained an article entitled: “Sweet and Salty: Nutritional content and analysis of baby and toddler foods”, which analyzed the sodium and sugar content of many Canadian foods.
Here is one of the key ﬁndings of the study: “Overall, 63% of the products
surveyed can be classiﬁed as having high levels of sodium or a large proportion of calories coming from sugar (or both)—a surprising ﬁgure, particularly since one might expect the foods aimed at our youngest consumers to meet a gold standard when it comes to nutrition.” The study also noted that “research suggests that the composition of early childhood diet may directly impact metabolic pathways and health during adulthood.”
In a time when we are encouraging adults to signiﬁcantly reduce their salt and
sugar intake to decrease the serious long-term health effects associated with a
high intake of both, it seems completely contradictory that we are feeding our
babies and toddlers foods which develop a taste for salty, sugary foods which
may, in turn, negatively-impact their health as adults.
What’s the easiest way to avoid inadvertently raising selective and unhealthy
eaters? Feed your babies and toddlers whole foods whenever you can, and
keep the added salt and sugars to a minimum.
Parents set the patterns: I can tell you from clinical experience that unhealthy patterns are harder to break the older the child is and the longer they have been allowed to follow them.
Start early: Why feed your baby white rice cereal when brown rice is available? If he never tries white, he will develop a taste for brown. If a toddler is never fed sweetened applesauce she will always be satisﬁed by pure, unsweetened apples.
The average toddler should eat a diet of at least 80% whole foods, but most
don’t. A diet rich in whole fruits, vegetables, eggs, legumes, lean meats, brown
rice and whole grains, along with low-fat, unsweetened dairy or dairy
alternatives, is a diet naturally low in sodium and added sugars. Avoid
processed foods whenever you can, and keep the salt shaker and the sugar
bowl off the dining table.
Feeding your young children this way not only decreases their taste for salt and sugar, it sets them up for healthy life-long eating habits and body weight, and reduces their risk of developing a multitude of chronic illnesses.
If you are interested in reading the Sweet & Salty article in full, please click
As the school season commences, I will be starting up my schedule of
seminars on topics including “School Lunch Solutions” and “Raising Healthy
Eaters”, both of which provide lots of practical solutions for feeding your kids
better, including reducing their salt, sodium and saturated fat intake. If you are interested in attending or hosting one of these workshops, please contact me through my website, below.
Wendy McCallum, LLB, RHN, is passionate about providing busy parents with the tools & support they need to feed their families wholesome food, so everyone can play, learn, and feel better! She is a mother of two terrific HRM kids, ages 6 & 7. For information and recipe ideas, visit her website