Reading Baby Food Labels

16 August 2011

I have never scrutinized food labels in my life, until I had babies. Since then, I read and compare and analyse and drive myself crazy in the middle of the grocery store. Like every other thing in this country, knowledge is power. The more you understand about food labels, the smarter your choices can be - especially for your little ones.

Here's a few tidbits I've gleaned from reading and understanding nutritional labels on baby food.
  1. Serving size: The label is always based on serving size. Check what makes up a serving. Is it more or less than what baby will eat at a sitting?
  2. Calories: Check for calories per serving size. The typical milk-based baby formula contains 20 calories per ounce (this is government regulated). On any food, I mentally convert the calories per serving to calories per ounce. I have no issue with it being higher or lower than 20, just need to know if I need to supplement with more calories or less.
  3. Calories: Babies require around 52 calories per lb of body weight daily (Source: unverified publications)
  4. Ingredients: By default the ingredient list on packaged food starts with the highest  and goes down. So when a fancy puree says peaches and potatoes, and the peaches are the last thing on the ingredient list behind sunset-orange food coloring and peach-flavor - you know exactly how much peaches you have in there. Hint: Not much.
  5. Sugar: Not all sugar is bad or can be eliminated. Some are naturally occurring in the foods being used. Added sugars will be called corn syrup, maple syrup, fructose, sucrose, glucose etc. Is sugar bad, not necessarily as long as it's in moderation and you know how if affects baby. High sugar juice just before bedtime for baby prone to hyperactivity? Not the best idea
  6. Daily value: The vitamins and minerals are usual listed as percentage of a daily value. Does the label specify what constitutes daily value. Some do and some don't. The daily value is usually 2000 calories per day but some companies actually use "daily value for kids" which is less. So 15% vitamin A means nothing unless your sure if it's based on 2000 calories or not.
  7. Sodium: Babies under 12 months need less than 0.4 grams a day.
  8. Further guidelines on sodium can be found in the UK NHS website
  9. Concentrate: Some fruit-based foods contain the fruit concentrate instead of the main fruit. Manufacturers will tell you that the only difference between fruit juice and concentrate is the water content. Well... Tropicana is made from concentrate and Simply Orange Juice is not. A glass of each is a good way to understand what concentrate is. My take, avoid the concentrate when possible
  10. The FDA has a really good guide on reading nutritional labels.
What can I say? A mother's work is never done and we can never know too much when it comes to our kids. Have a great Tuesday. I'm linking up to Amanda's top ten Tuesday.

Enjoy this? Read these too!

© MyTwintopia. Design by FCD.