Added sugars and saturated fats: know your limits
In addition to the food groups, there are other components to consider when building a healthy eating pattern, including the amounts of added sugars, saturated fats, and sodium your child consumes. Added sugars and saturated fats add to total calories, but provide no vitamins or minerals. Allowing too many can fill your child up without supplying the nutrients they need. They can also add more calories than your child needs in a day.
Some examples of added sugars and saturated fats are:
- The sugars or sweeteners in soft drinks, fruit punch, candies, cakes, cookies, pies, and ice cream.
- The saturated fats in cookies, cakes, pizza, cheese, sausages, fatty meats, butter, and stick margarine.
- Some foods – such as milk, yogurt, and cereals – provide important nutrients, but they can also contain some added sugars or saturated fats. For example, sweetened yogurt and sweetened breakfast cereals contain added sugars. Whole milk and cheese contain saturated fat. Look for food choices that are low in saturated fats, unsweetened, or with no-added sugars.
There is room for foods with some added sugars or saturated fats now and then. But most daily food choices for preschoolers should be low in these dietary components.
Here are some ideas to help you choose foods lower in added sugars and saturated fat for your preschooler:
Plain yogurt plus fruit
Fat-free or low-fat milk
Sweetened breakfast cereals
Cereals with little or no added sugar
Fried chicken or fried fish
Baked chicken or fish
Ice cream or frozen yogurt
Frozen fruits or frozen 100% fruit bars
Soft drinks or fruit punch
Baked chips or whole grain crackers
Butter or margarine
Trans fat-free tub margarine, low in saturated fat
Jam or jelly
100% fruit spread
Nearly all of us eat too much sodium, which is found in salt. This includes most children. Most salt that Americans eat comes from processed foods and foods eaten away from home.
The taste for salt is learned. Adding less or no salt and choosing foods lower in salt can help your preschooler learn to like foods with a less salty taste.
Eating less salt is an important way to help your preschooler stay healthy as they grow. This may reduce their risk for high blood pressure and some chronic diseases when they are adults. The recommended daily limit for sodium is less than 1500 milligrams for children 1 to 3 years old, and less than 1900 milligrams for children 4 to 8 years old.
To eat less salt:
- Compare sodium content for similar foods, using the Nutrition Facts label to select brands lower in sodium. For example, a cup of tomato soup may have from 700 to 1260 milligrams of sodium.
- Look for "no salt added" or "low sodium" food products.
- Prepare foods with little or no added salt.
- Rinse canned foods such as beans with water before use to reduce the amount of salt.
Also look for foods that are good sources of potassium, which counteracts some of sodium's effects on blood pressure. Vegetables like sweet potatoes, beet greens, white beans, potatoes, tomato puree and paste, and soybeans and fruits like bananas, dried plums (prunes), cantaloupe, honeydew, and orange juice are examples of foods to choose for potassium.
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