Ready-made baby and toddler foods are a common choice for Australian families, as one in three young children eat these foods at least once a week, and one in five eat them most days.
However, many parents are unaware these foods are often not healthy, and the majority falsely believe they are regulated by the government to ensure they provide good nutrition for children.
The latest Royal Children’s Hospital (RCH) National Child Health Poll, made possible thanks to your support, show that for one in every four babies who eat ready-made foods, these products make up most or all of their diet, with more than half of Australian parents believing that ready-made baby and toddler foods contain ingredients to make sure children grow and develop well.
Dr Anthea Rhodes, Paediatrician and Poll Director, said while parents commonly choose these foods for convenience, building awareness about the lack of strict regulation of the content of these foods will help parents to make informed choices.
“We found that 73 per cent of parents believe ready-made baby and toddler foods provide good nutrition for their children. This is a really concerning finding. These foods often contain high levels of harmful sugars.”
The latest Poll found that nine out of 10 parents (87 per cent) recognise that eating habits in early childhood have a life-long impact on health, but most falsely believe that ready-made baby and toddler foods are tightly regulated in Australia.
“In fact, this is not the case in Australia, with limited regulation of these products for babies and no specific regulations for toddler products. Parents told us they want laws to regulate these food products, with 90 per cent of parents saying they would support laws to regulate the contents and marketing of ready-made foods for babies and toddlers,” said Dr Rhodes.
Tips for parents
- If you are looking for convenient food options for kids, some of the fastest foods are fruit and vegetables. They are easily transported and eaten on the move, and there is a variety in taste and texture to choose from.
- If you use ready-made baby purees, try swapping these at times for foods that are quickly mashed or naturally smooth, such as banana, yoghurt or avocado. Consider whether your baby is ready to try soft finger foods.
- It is normal for kids to be fussy, refuse a new food or dislike a food they have eaten previously. Continue to offer healthy foods and model healthy eating for them. Try to make meal times fun and pressure-free, give praise when your child tries new foods and avoid tricking them into eating.
- It’s OK for children to eat ready-made foods from time to time. But be aware that these foods are not always a healthy option and packaging may be misleading. Try to limit these to ‘sometimes’ foods to avoid potentially high levels of sugar or salt.
Read the full RCH National Child Health Poll here.