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Sugar & Salt Content in Baby Food

by Eliza Martinez

You like to think that those jars of baby food you fill your cart with are healthy and safe for your baby to eat. While it's true that purees do contain protein, vitamins A and C and other nutrients vital to your little one's health, many are too high in salt and sugar to be healthy. A diet with high amounts of either can result in health problems down the road, so understanding the baby food products on your store shelves can help you make the right choices for your baby.

Average Content

In a 2011 study published in the "Journal of Public Health," researchers found that 63 percent of baby food products contained high sodium or sugar. For example, Gerber's Fruit Medley dessert might sound relatively healthy, but more than 75 percent of its calories come from added sugar, reports FYI Living magazine. Processed baby foods often contain added salt to help enhance flavor, texture and shelf life. While the occasional indulgence probably won't hurt your baby, a regular diet of baby food offenders could have a detrimental impact on his future health.

Health Risks

A diet high in salt and sugar isn't good for your baby's health, so it's important to monitor his intake. Too much salt can lead to high blood pressure, which plays a role in heart disease. Too much sugar can harm your baby's teeth and contribute to the development of diabetes. Sugar contains calories, so a sugar-rich diet can also cause unhealthy weight gain, which is a factor in many health conditions. These health issues might not present themselves until your baby grows up, but making the right dietary choices from the start sets him up for a lifetime of healthy living.

Choosing Baby Food

Limiting your baby's sugar and salt intake shouldn't be difficult, but the truth is that a diet made up of jarred baby food can make it hard. It's important to read the labels carefully so you can make the healthiest decisions. Choices with no added salt or sugar are your safest bets, notes the "Journal of Public Health." A baby's daily salt intake should not exceed 370 milligrams per day; sugar intake should only be about 100 calories each day. Reading the nutrition information on many baby food products makes it clear that they might not be the sources of optimal nutrition you once thought.

Alternatives

It takes a bit more time than a trek to the grocery store, but making your own baby food is the best way to ensure it contains no added salt or sugar. This keeps your little one's food safe for his health, but it also prevents him from developing a taste for salty and sweet foods. The Lucile Packard Children's Hospital recommends making homemade baby food without adding any salt or sugar. Use fresh fruits and vegetables because canned versions often contain added sodium and sweeteners.

About the Author

Eliza Martinez has written for print and online publications. She covers a variety of topics, including parenting, nutrition, mental health, gardening, food and crafts. Martinez holds a master's degree in psychology.

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