Feeding kids can be a minefield, especially when it comes to choosing healthy snacks - so often we serve up healthy family meals only to fall down in between meals with less than healthy options at snack time! Over the last few years I've been trying to mostly offer my boys healthy snacks like fresh fruit, vegetables and yogurt between meals (check out my post with over 75 healthy snack ideas!), but there's definitely a place for shop bought snacks too, especially when time is short or we're out of the house.
With this in mind I've got some great tips in this post to help you work out which are the healthiest snacks on offer when you're faced with the huge selection available at most supermarkets, as well as some fantastic nutritional advice from the team at Organix.
Recently I travelled down to Bournemouth to visit the lovely team at Organix HQ. It was a really interesting day as, alongside several other bloggers (Kate from Veggie Desserts, Molly from Mother’s Always Right, Mel from Le Coin de Mel and Filippa from Gourmet Mum), I listened to Emily Day (Food Development Manager for Organix) and Dr Frankie Phillips (Nutrition Advisor for Organix), give talks about the importance of snacking for toddlers and also had the chance to see and sample some of Organix's delicious new snacks for little ones.
It's no secret that I am a big fan of Organix and their lovely range of foods for babies, toddlers and children. My recent visit to Organix HQ reminded me of everything I love about the company - their short ingredients lists, their no-junk promise and their ongoing commitment to helping parents to give their little ones the very best start in life with simple, practical advice and good, nutritious food.
Organix aims to set standards in food for children and whilst this applies to all of their own foods, they also keep a keen eye on the children's food industry as a whole and aren't afraid to campaign where needed for better standards across the whole industry. Organix are particularly concerned about added ingredients in many baby and toddler foods at the moment, especially salt (current recommendations are that babies should have less than 1g salt per day and only 1-2g per day for young children), so they've put together a Junk Busters panel of parent bloggers to investigate exactly what is in foods and snacks marketed for babies and toddlers.
So why is salt such an issue?
As Dr Frankie Phillips explained to us, we all need some sodium in our diet, but too much has a negative effect on your health, especially your kidneys, and can be particularly damaging for babies and young children. Too much salt also has a negative impact on blood pressure, no matter your age, and if young children develop a taste for salty foods, this can set them up with bad habits for life which can have a knock-on effect on their health right into adulthood. Three quarters of the salt that we all eat comes from processed foods, but sodium is also found naturally in many foods, so there is no actual nutritional need for it to be added to foods. Unfortunately many food manufacturers add salt (along with sugar and other additives) to foods to make them taste nicer, and this practice has crept down into many foods marketed for baby and toddlers too.
The best thing you can do to combat this is introduce your little ones to a wide range of healthy foods, flavours and textures - the more varied their diet, the more likely they are to meet their nutritional requirements. This is where snacking can be so useful, as it's an extra opportunity to introduce new textures and flavours throughout each day. For young children, snacking is also important as their tummies are very small, so snacks can help keep their energy levels up between meals.
The difference between snacks and treats
Snacks and treats are entirely different things and should be treated differently (treats being foods high in sugar, like chocolate, cake and ice cream). I absolutely believe that there is room for yummy treats in everyone's life, but as I tell my children, if you have treats too often they stop being a 'treat' and become an 'ordinary'! Frankie recommends that children have healthy snacks 2-3 times a day, but that we should aim for no more than 2-3 treats a week.
What should you look for in a snack?
One thing that came up several times was the idea of 'nutrient density' - getting the most nutrition per calorie when choosing what to feed your children (and yourself). For example, if you compare a shortbread biscuit with an oaty flapjack, you'll find a lot more goodness in the flapjack rather than the empty (nutrition poor) calories in the shortbread, even if their overall calorie account is the same.
Unfortunately many brands are using terms such as 'natural', 'nutritionist approved' and 'gluten free' in their marketing of food for children, which can trick parents into thinking that they are choosing a healthy option when this isn't always the case. The best think you can do is look beyond the labels at the ingredients list and nutritional information when choosing food for your kids.
In practical terms, when you're choosing what to buy, look for products with higher protein and fibre and lower added salt and sugar. When it comes to sugar, try to avoid what are known as 'free sugars', for example refined sugar, honey or maple syrup, and look for products sweetened with dried fruit instead, as it's more nutritious.
Why I choose Organix
One of the many things I love about Organix is their clear honest labelling and short ingredients lists. When you pick up any Organix product, you can easily see exactly what is inside. You'll never find any unnecessary additives in their foods, including salt, processed sugar or hydrogenated fat.
Organix are always working on developing new products and we had the chance to try their newest snacks at the event. The focus when developing these new snacks was on using nutrient dense ingredients to create tasty snacks with as much goodness inside as possible.
Brand new to the Organix Goodies range are two new pulsed-based savoury snacks - Cheese & Onion Lentil Hoops, Cheesy Pea Snaps and Pea Puffs. The Cheese & Onion Lentil Hoops contain just five organic ingredients - lentils (65%), corn, cheese powder, onion powder and a little sunflower oil. The Cheesy Pea Snaps are made from just four organic ingredients - peas (65%), corn, cheese powder and a little sunflower oil. They are both delicious but I couldn't stop eating the lentil hoops - never mind the kids, I'll be buying those for myself!
Also new are the chunkier Pea Puffs, which are part of the finger food range suitable for weaning babies. They contain just two organic ingredients - peas and corn, and are milder in flavor.
We also had a chance to taste the brand new fruit and seed bites, which come in three delicious flavours; Cocoa, Cocoa & Banana and Cocoa & Coconut. As the name suggests, they are made from dried fruit, seeds and cocoa, with nothing unnecessary added. My boys absolutely love these, and I'm really pleased that I can pack them as a yummy treat in their lunch boxes as there are no nuts inside (my boys go to a nut-free school).
Listening to Emily and Frankie speak so knowledgeably about nutrition has really made me think about what I am feeding my kids and how nutrient dense the food I'm serving is. I'm finding myself checking the backs of packets a lot more than I used to and I'm really aware of the need to provide them with a good balance of foods throughout the day.
10 Top tips for buying snacks for little ones
- Don't assume marketing claims such as 'natural' mean healthy - check ingredients and nutritional details on the back of the pack!
- Look for products with higher protein and fibre as this will usually indicate more nutrient dense foods
- Look for products with low or no added sugar
- Choose products sweetened with dried fruit rather than 'free sugars' like refined sugar, honey or maple syrup
- Try to avoid products with added salt
- Many products have traffic light labels - try to go for products displaying greens and ambers rather than reds.
- Look for products with short ingredients lists
- Look for products with 'real food' ingredients - avoid unrecognisable ingredients
- Try to buy snacks with a variety of tastes and textures
- Keep in mind the difference between snacks and treats
Do you check the back of packs when choosing foods for your kids? Why not join in the conversation by sharing what you find, (good or bad!) using the #FoodYouCanTrust hashtag on social media.
Disclosure: This blog post was commissioned by Organix. I was compensated for my time, however all opinions expressed in this post are my own.
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