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PAEDIATRIC SUPPLEMENT

Dr Emma Derbyshire Independent Consultant Emma heads Nutritional Insight Ltd, an independent consultancy to industry, government, publishers and PR agencies. She is an avid writer for scientific journals and media. Her specialist areas are public health nutrition, maternal and child nutrition and functional foods. www.nutritionalinsight.co.uk @DrDerbyshire

For full article references please email info@ networkhealth group.co.uk

THE NUTRITIONAL PROFILE OF INFANT AND TODDLER SNACK PRODUCTS The infant and toddler snack market is rapidly expanding, with an increased demand for specialist products in this important life-stage. This article, summarising recent analysis by Dr Emma Derbyshire, provides a nutritional evaluation of UK infant and toddler snack foods. This current analysis evaluates the nutritional profile of 98 snack products currently available in the UK typically found in supermarkets and pharmaceutical stores for this life-stage. Findings showed that fruit-based snacks dominate the market, although some vegetable-based products are beginning to emerge. Most products (48.5%) had thiamine on their nutrition label yet overlook nutrients where shortfalls are evident (vitamin D, iron). This paper highlights that there is still much work to be done in this important and growing sector. It is becoming increasingly apparent that nutrition in the early years is central to later health.1 The early years period also falls within the first 1,000 days of life (from conception to the second birthday), which is regarded as being a critical window of opportunity to optimise a child’s health.2 A nutritional analysis of commercial infant and toddler foods sold in the United States which included snacks, found them to be particularly high in sugar and sodium.3 Snacks are typically defined as ‘eating occasions between meals’.4 Amongst young children, a routine of three meals and two snacks a day is a useful benchmark to follow.5 It is, however, increasingly being recognised that the trend of ‘snackification’ (eating on the go) is showing no signs of subsiding.6 Whilst this trend is flourishing amongst adults, it also appears to be creeping in within the infant/toddler market. Bearing this

in mind, it is critically important that products available are appropriate in terms of flavour exposures and their nutritional profile. METHODS

Data collection Proportions of declared energy (kJ), energy (kcal), protein (g), carbohydrate (g), total sugar (g), total fat (g), saturated fat (g), fibre (g), salt (g) and sodium (g) content were examined along with the presence on additional micronutrients on the food label. Where sugars were not used to sweeten foods, the main source of sweetness was listed. Where oils were added to foods, the main oil and percentage contribution to the product was collated. The range of products available was also analysed by product type and age category for which it was marketed. Products were identified using three different supermarket websites and one pharmaceutical website. The search terms ‘infant’ and ‘toddler’, combined with ‘snacks/snack foods’ were used to identify the products. Infant formulas, fortified milk, beverages and ready meals were excluded from the analysis. Data was categorised into the following groups:

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PAEDIATRIC SUPPLEMENT Table 1: Macronutrient profile of infant/toddler snack foods (per 100g) Product

Energy (kcal)

Protein (g)

CHO (g)

Sugars (g)

Fat (g)

Saturated fat (g)

Fibre (g)

Salt (g)

Biscuits

429.6

9.3

68.8

16.5

12.8

4.1

4.9

0.4

Bars

386.7

6.3

97.2

31.7

11.9

2.1

6.4

0.1

Crisps/puffs

453.4

6.8

65.4

6.3

18.1

2.6

3.5

0.5

Crackers/ bread sticks

444.6

11.9

65.7

2.5

14.3

4.9

3.4

0.6

Rice cakes

388.2

7.3

85.1

12.0

1.6

0.4

1.9

0.1

Fruit-based snacks

317.3

2.6

69.2

54.9

2.2

1.0

7.5

0.1

Vegetablebased snacks

431.3

7.6

69.8

16.1

12.4

1.2

6.2

0.5

1 Biscuits 2 Bars 3 Crisps/puffs 4 Crackers 5 Rice cakes 6 Fruit-based snacks 7 Vegetable-based snacks Nutrients listed on the food labels were also collated. RESULTS

A total of 98 snack products were identified. Of these, one-quarter were fruit-based snacks (dried fruit pieces/gummies), 22% were biscuits, 17% rice cakes, 15% crisps or puffs, 13% were bars, 6% vegetable-based snacks and 5% crackers or breadsticks. The mean macronutrient profile of infant/ toddler snacks is presented in Table 1. Fruitbased snacks had the lowest energy, protein, fat and saturated fat content. They also had the highest fibre content (along with snack bars). Pairwise comparisons showed that fruit-based snacks and bars contained significantly more fibre content than options such as rice cakes (P<0.05). The total sugar content of fruit-based products was, however, the highest at 54.9g. Crackers/bread sticks had the highest protein content and provided most salt. Crisps and puffs typically had the highest total fat content. Pairwise analysis found levels of saturated fat were significantly higher in biscuit, crisps/puffs and crackers/breadstick products compared with rice cake products (P<0.05). 16

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Vegetable-based snacks were surprisingly high in energy and total fat, possibly due to oils added. Sunflower oil was used in the majority of products (62%), although over one-third (36%) used palm oil (Figure 1). An analysis of nutrients listed on food labels revealed that thiamine was the most commonly reported nutrient (listed on 48.5% of products), possibly due to flour fortification. After this, less than 10% of products reported listing key nutrients such as iron, vitamin D, zinc or calcium, indicating that the nutritional density of infant/ toddler products appears to be low (Figure 2). DISCUSSION

It is important that the right food choices are available for infants and toddlers, which help to satisfy appetite whilst providing a good source of nourishment. It is well established that earlylife experiences with healthy tastes and flavours can go a long way towards promoting healthy eating. This, in turn, can play a significant role in addressing the many chronic illnesses associated with poor food choices.7 Whilst fruit-based snacks low in fat are a great provider of fibre, they also contain a high amount of fruit sugars. Given this, it would be good to see a greater range of savoury and vegetable-based products, preferably with a lower fat content and using fewer oils such as palm oil.8 It is important that a range of products are eaten to disperse intakes of fat, protein and fibre. Equally, snacks, such as fresh vegetables and fruits, should not be overlooked.


Figure 1: Types of oils used in infant/toddler foods

Figure 2: Micronutrients listed on food labels (% of products)

Whist it is good to see that most products are now moving away from using ‘added sugars’, this does not necessarily mean that they are moving away from sources of ‘sweetness’ per se, with alternatives creeping in. With regard to salt content, this was highest in crackers and breadstick-type products, though most products are well balanced in this sense. The micronutrient profile of commercial infant/ toddler snack products was somewhat disappointing, indicating that current snack products appear to be more about providing fuel and different flavours. There is certainly scope to evaluate the vitamin D content of infant and toddler foods given deficiency concerns and poor compliance with supplements during the early years.

CONCLUDING REMARKS

Taken together, whilst the infant and toddler snack product market is evolving, there is still much work to be done. Improvements are being made in terms of not using added sugars and monitoring of salt levels. However, when looking at the ‘variety’ of foods available, sweet tasting products continue to dominate in favour of more savoury and alternative tastes. Whilst current snack products appear to provide a basic source of fuel, they do not seem to be provide much more beyond this. Fruitbased snacks do appear to be an important provider of fibre, but the general micronutrient profile of current infant/toddler commercial snack foods seems to be lagging behind. www.NHDmag.com May 2017 - Issue 124 - Supplement

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Issue 124 supplement the nutritional profile of infant and toddler snack products  

Issue 124 supplement the nutritional profile of infant and toddler snack products