Depending on the age of your baby, you’ll likely be carrying around lots of snacks. Without snacks it’s almost impossible to get all the way round a supermarket, definitely impossible to chat over a coffee and forget about queuing in a bank.
My snacks usually sit at the bottom of my handbag and accumulate. I have all sorts of containers filled with semi-degraded foods. It’s quite disgusting really.
Yesterday in a moment of pure desperation I grabbed a baby rice and berry bar in a health shop, opened it on the spot and just the aroma itself was enough to warn me not to give it to my daughter.
Looking at the ingredients of this healthy ‘snack’ was scary. It looked good on the surface but four different forms of sugar were listed in the top six ingredients and studying the nutritional information revealed it didn’t really contain much of anything beneficial. The berries were less than two percent of the bar and the fibre was less than you’d find in an apple.
I endured the screaming rather than giving her this bar – actually I ate it myself. It tasted of marshmallowy rice krispie cakes. Pleasant I suppose if you like that kind of thing but why would anyone think it’s ok to market this for a baby?
It got me thinking about the best thing to offer when you find yourself snack-less. There’s a huge difference in the quality of baby snacks (being organic and having a smiley face does not necessarily mean they’re good for you).
If you go for a pouch check the label. Some add sugar for some reason, odd because they are basically fruit sugar anyway. Yes they are getting fruit so I’d say they’re a healthier option but the labels can be misleading.
They may have vegetable names all over them but the reality is that most are up to 70 percent fruit, with just a little veg. This isn’t great for blood sugar levels which can, after the initial peace whilst consuming, make restlessness and impatience worse. Also the heat used in processing these destroys many of the nutrients so you won’t actually be getting the full benefits from the ingredients.
Other snacks are mainly of the biscuit variety – oaty bites, rice cakes, teething biscuits and these strange, very messy, crisp-like puffs. Apart from the acrylamide content, which is a worry, they also aren’t good for blood sugar and don’t offer too much nutritionally.
Babies eat so little it’s best the foods they do eat help boost growth and development and are conducive to a good night’s sleep. Many snacks have added sugars (anything ending in –ose on the label means sugar), vegetable oils which are unstable at the temperatures used in processing and other unnecessary ingredients.
What’s the alternative?
The best things to offer are apple and pear slices, steamed carrot batons or broccoli florets, cucumber slices, that kind of thing. Fresh foods they can hold themselves. At a push I offer dried fruits (although never raisins as these send blood sugar sky-high and they’re bad for teeth).
Broccoli may sound weird as a snack, but a baby’s taste buds are trained by you. They have no knowledge of sugar and it’s best to keep it that way as long as possible. If you regularly offer broccoli, that’s what they’ll think is normal. My eldest used to snack on raw kale. Even I found that weird.
Don’t worry if you have to find something to placate your child, just keep it as simple as possible – a banana, apple or something basic such as rice or oatcakes. Not only is this the healthier option, it’s also the cheaper option.
There is no need to buy into the baby snack market, ‘grown-up’ rice cakes come salt-free. Better still are oatcakes as these help regulate blood sugar and take time to eat, keeping them occupied for longer. If you do go for a baby snack check the label – there’s often a lot more to it than meets the eye.
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