Children's Nutritional Needs? Parents Confused

How healthy is the food you give your children? Not 100 per cent sure? You're not alone.

According to new research, mums and dads are increasingly confused about the nutritional goodness of the food they put into their children's mouths.

More than three-quarters of parents with children aged one to three worry about whether their child is getting all the nutrition they need from their meals.

The research, by children's healthy chilled meals brand Little Dish, revealed 79 per cent of parents are unsure of recommended salt levels and 77 per cent are uncertain of official guidelines on sugar levels in youngsters' food.

More than four in five are also unsure of the recommended overall calorie intake to give their children.

Parents' lack of confidence appears to be made worse by unclear nutritional information on food - 40 per cent struggled to understand it.

Little Dish, founded by mother-of-two Hilary Graves, commissioned the survey of 1,100 parents to mark a new range of 13 chilled meals for children aged from one year.

To help you navigate the minefield of advice, here are some healthy eating tips for kids:

Don't add salt:

When introducing solid food to children, do not add salt or give them food with added salt because their kidneys cannot cope.

Children aged up to three should have no more than 2g of salt a day (equivalent to 0.8g of sodium), rising to 5g a day (2g of sodium) for seven to ten-year-olds.

The salt content on food packaging is usually given as figures for sodium. A food containing more than 0.6g of sodium per 100g is considered to be high in salt.

Avoid added sugar:

Foods with added sugar should be avoided for young children and only eaten in small amounts as they grow, because they can cause tooth decay and often are high in calories but contain few other nutrients.

In ingredients lists, sugar may also be called glucose, sucrose, maltose, corn syrup, hydrolysed starch, invert sugar or fructose. Fruit juice and honey added to food to make it sweeter also count as sugars.

Check nutrition labels, buy tins of fruit in juice rather than syrup, and choose wholegrain breakfast cereals not coated with sugar or honey.

More than 22.5g of total sugars per 100g is high; 5g of total sugars or less per 100g is low.

Kids need five a day:

Children should eat at least five portions of a variety of fruit and vegetables every day.

One portion is what they can fit in the palm of a hand. A 150ml serving of fruit juice counts, but the sugars can damage teeth, so only serve it with a meal and dilute it for young children.

Don't count calories:

Toddlers should be eating around 1,000 to 1,400 calories a day, depending on their body weight and activity levels.

But there's no need to start counting - young children tend to eat what they need, so just make sure their food is healthy.