Introduction: Early intake of foods with excess sodium, sugar, and saturated fat can influence later dietary habits and health, potentially increasing the risk of cardiovascular disease. A 2012 analysis indicated that 72% of commercial toddler meals were high in sodium (average: 361 mg per serving) and 32% of toddler meals and >70% of infant and toddler snacks, desserts, and juice drinks contained one or more added sugars. Given manufacturer reported changes in commercial infant and toddler foods the study objective is to determine the sodium, sugar and fat content of commercial infant and toddler foods sold in the U.S. in 2015.
Methods: Major brands of infant and toddler food products were identified. Nutrition information was collected from manufacturer websites and grocery stores (e.g. private label products) from May to July, 2015. A total of 1,045 food products were categorized according to main ingredients, target eater and serving sizes. Serving sizes were standardized to the FDA Reference Amount Customarily Consumed (RACC) per eating occasion for the specific category. Mean sodium, sugar and saturated fat content was computed per serving, per 100g, and in relation to calories (mg/1000 Kcal for sodium and as a percent of calories for sodium and fat). High sodium content was defined as >210 mg/serving or >200 mg/100g, the CODEX standard used by manufacturers. Presence of added sugar and industrially produced trans fat was determined from the ingredients list.
Results: Mean sodium content ranged from 4 mg/serving (mixed grains and fruits) to 290 (toddler meals) and 73 mg/1000 Kcal (cereals, dry/instant) to 997 mg/1000 Kcal (savory snacks).Mean percent of calories from sugar ranged from 7% (savory snacks) to 82% (juices/drinks), and percent of calories from saturated fat from 0% (infant vegetables, dinners, fruits, dry cereals) to 7.5% (toddler meals). Almost all infant foods were low in sodium. Few infant foods contained added sugars except 44% of infant pureed fruits and 27% of mixed grains with fruits. Eighty-one percent of toddler meals exceeded 210 mg/serving, while 5% were >200 mg/100 g with an average of 170 mg/100g. More than 70% of toddler’s meals, cereal bars/breakfast pastries, and infant/toddler desserts and dairy products contained added sugar. None of the products contained industrially produced trans fat.
Conclusions: In 2015 average sodium content of commercial toddler meals was about 20% lower than in 2012, with the majority meeting the CODEX standard, but still above 210 mg per serving. Commercial toddler meals, infant mixed grain with fruits and infant or toddler cereal bars/breakfast pastries and desserts remain of concern due to added sugars. Commercial infant and toddler foods are generally low in their saturated fat content with no industrially produced trans fat.