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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Children are what you feed them

Anthony L. Komaroff Universal Uclick

DEAR DOCTOR K: I buy lots of ready-made infant and toddler foods for my little one. A friend told me I should make my own foods for my son at home. Are ready-made toddler foods unhealthy?

DEAR READER: Eating salty, sugary foods in childhood can set the stage for childhood obesity, high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke. Therefore, you might assume that foods created for infants and toddlers would be low in salt and sugar. But a recent study, published in the journal Pediatrics, found that infant and toddler foods might be less healthy than you think.

Using a national database, researchers looked at the amounts of sodium and sugar in more than 1,000 infant and toddler foods sold across the United States. The foods included infant and toddler dinners, snacks, fruits, vegetables, dry cereals, juices and desserts.

The researchers found that:

• Most foods made only for infants were low in sodium and sugar, and did not have added sugar.

• However, almost three out of four (72 percent) toddler dinners had too much salt. Most toddler foods also had added (extra) sugars.

Not surprisingly, most toddler desserts and juices contained added sugar. And snacks contained plenty of added sugar and salt.

Eating less salt and sugar in early childhood can help set good habits that lead to better health later in life.

If you have the time and inclination, make your own toddler foods. But you can also make sure your child eats healthy, nutritious foods by making good choices at the store:

• Check servings and calories. Don’t assume one package equals one serving.

• Buy foods low in sodium. Children ages 1 to 3 years should consume less than 1,500 mg of sodium each day.

• Look for foods and drinks low in sugars. Sugars can be listed as sucrose, glucose, high-fructose corn syrup, corn syrup, maple syrup or fructose.

• Cut out soda and juice.

• Give your child water and milk. Milk has nutrients your child needs to stay healthy.

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