Are your babies hooked? Food companies are making junkies out of your babies.

August 21, 2016

By Jennifer Parker

Nutritional Therapist & Food and Nutrition Policy Consultant

Author of EdiblePolitics.org

Frozen vegetables on cutting board and plastic bags. top view

Snickers Bars, M&M’s, Crispy Cream Donuts, hot chocolate fudge sundays – All very tempting and loaded with sugar. You may enjoy these as treats from time to time, but you’d never feed a Mars bar to your new baby, right?! Shockingly, many baby formulas and baby food products for infants and toddlers are worse than junk-food. Their marketing is deceiving to parents and can do more harm than their packaging leads on.

What we feed our children can drastically influence their immediate and future health habits and ultimately their quality of life. The right nutritional support is crucial to a child’s development – both physically and mentally. A poor diet can stunt growth and brain development, cause behavioural disorders such as ADHD and chronic diseases like diabetes (The number of children diagnosed with diabetes type II has skyrocketed in the US within the last 20 years). This is a huge responsibility and in today’s food environment parents are finding it more and more difficult to get the right nutrients in their children’s diets.

This is because many of the products out there tout an array of nutritional benefits and offer immense convenience by feeding babies these almost instant meals. These claims are of course very attractive. What parent doesn’t want the best for their children especially when offered help easing the hectic daily routines that come along with having children. However, buyers beware, these products often contain harmful, hidden ingredients. For example, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found perchlorate, a chemical from rocket fuel, in 15 brands of infant formula, including two brands that accounted for 87 percent of the market share.

Researchers from the CDC also examined the nutritional information of 1,074 infant and toddler food products, looking specifically at sugar and sodium content. Of the 79 infant mixed grains and fruits, almost half (41) contained one added sugar; 35 of these had 35 percent of their calories coming from sugar. Children should consume no more than 60 to 130 grams of sugar per day based on age (see the chart provided).

A child’s daily sugar consumption falls under carbohydrate guidelines:

From one to six-months, a child should have 60 grams of carbs
From seven to 12-months, 95 grams a day
One to three-years-old, 130 grams a day.

Toddler foods are also loaded with sodium which is a huge problem. Children under 1 year old cannot process high amounts of salt. It wreaks havoc on their kidneys. During the first year, children should only consume less than 1g (0.4g sodium) a day until they are 12 months.

What parents also need to be wary of is the increase in sugar and salt in more and more unexpected foods. It is no longer only found in more obvious things like soft drinks and candy.  Appallingly, one half of the sugar we are consuming today is in items such as deli meats, breads, tomato sauce, yogurt, nuts and all sorts of processed foods we would never imagine to contain sugar, let alone such high amounts of it. One single serving pot of yogurt can contain up to 30g of sugar! Almost every item in the supermarket with a food label has some form of sugar in it. Food companies have a lot of competition and must not only gain customer support through having the best tasting product on the market, but also to stay in the game, a food company must keep costs down which they achieve by extending shelf life and adding in the cheaper ingredients; sugar and salt.

This is why a number of health organizations — including the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), the American Medical Association (AMA), and the World Health Organization (WHO) — recommend breastfeeding and making baby foods at home as the best choice for babies and toddlers. This not only allows control over the consumption of sodium, sugar and other toxins, but it also provides unequalled nutritional benefits. Breastfeeding especially helps defend against infections, prevent allergies, protect against a number of chronic conditions such as diabetes, high cholesterol, Hodgkin’s disease, leukemia, and lymphoma. Additionally, breast milk may even raise your child’s intelligence and help your child in later years, by reducing the risk of being overweight.

But if you are unable to breastfeed for any reason, or need to use formulas from time to time when there is no other option, parents need to take caution. So what are the safest, healthiest formula’s you can give your baby? Here’s what you should be asking when selecting an infant formula for your baby:

1)    Is it organic?
Conventional formula likely contains GMOs, traces of pesticides, milk contaminated with antibiotics or growth hormones, and oils that were extracted with hexane. While organic formulas can still have many yucky ingredients (read on), conventional formulas are worse.

2)    Does it contain essential fatty acids?
Most formulas now boast the addition of essential fatty acids DHA and ARA. This seems great, but unfortunately these oils are extracted by methods that involve neurotoxic hexane–even in formulas carrying the organic label. While it seems that formula-fed infants would be missing out on these healthy fats, which occur naturally in breast milk, studies have shown no benefits to infants drinking formulas fortified with DHA and ARA (which are extracted from algae and fungus).

3)    What type of sugar and how much sugar does it contain?

Tragically, many infant formulas are more than 50 percent sugar — 43 percent being corn syrup solids, which means they’re also high in fructose. Metabolically, consuming fructose is very similar to alcohol on a chronic basis, so there appears to be a surprising similarity between giving your infant a can of soda, or a bottle of most conventional infant formulas.

Sucrose, commonly found in formulas in the US was banned by The European Union in 2009 (except in formulas for babies with allergies), because of concerns about over-feeding and obesity. The FDA provides no such regulation on what kind of sugars can be used in formula here.

It remains fair to ask why it is necessary to add sugar to these baby or toddler products in the first place, and the fact that infant formulas are able to be marketed as nutritious for babies when they’re loaded with corn syrup is incredibly deceptive.

4) What Can You Do?

If you cannot breast feed, or are now onto baby foods with your child, make sure to always read the labels and check for trans fats, sugar and sodium contents. Also, refer to the ingredients list and look for products with a short list of ingredients with the first few being ingredients other than sugar or a sugar derivative. There are almost 100 words used on labels in the US for sugar!:

Anhydrous dextrose, brown sugar, cane crystals, cane sugar, corn sweetener, corn syrup, corn syrup solids, crystal dextrose, evaporated cane juice, fructose sweetener, fruit juice concentrates, high-fructose corn syrup, honey, liquid fructose, malt syrup, maple syrup, molasses, pancake syrup, raw sugar, sugar, syrup, white sugar, carbitol, concentrated fruit juice, corn sweetener, diglycerides, disaccharides, evaporated cane juice, erythritol, Florida crystals, fructooligosaccharides, galactose, glucitol, glucoamine, hexitol, inversol, isomalt, maltodextrin, malted barley, malts, mannitol, nectars, pentose, raisin syrup, ribose rice syrup, rice malt, rice syrup solids, sorbitol, sorghum, sucanat, sucanet, xylitol and zylose.

Help take a stand against food companies who cut corners to make profits and put your children’s health at risk. Go to my blog (www.ediblepolitics.org/jfx) and click the link to sign the petition asking retailers and grocery stores to exchange the junk-food placed at checkouts for healthier or non-food items to help reduce impulse buying and the marketing of unhealthy foods to young children.

Still not sure how to get the best nutrients for your children or yourself? Cut the confusion and email me at jenniferparker@hotmail.com to set up your free consultation.

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