Is it just us, or is confectionery popping up in more and more of our traditionally healthy snacks?
When we walk into the supermarket and are bombarded by choc-chip hot cross buns on one side and chocolate flavoured cream cheese and margarine on the other, it appears daily doses of confectionery are now the norm.
Gone are the days when yoghurt was simple, unadulterated yoghurt. Now it seems there are hundreds of different varieties of ‘dairy desserts’ to wade through – Rolo yoghurts, Yogo with M&Ms, and the list goes on.
Current research shows that Australian children are getting a whopping 41% of their energy intake from ‘discretionary’ foods (1). Discretionary foods are foods high in saturated fat and/or added sugars or salt such as confectionery, cakes, biscuits, ice cream, chips and soft drinks.
They are not an essential nor necessary part of our diet. And while small amounts can add to variety, kids and adults are eating far too many of them, which means that they are at risk of missing out on important nutrients.
In fact, the recommendation for children aged up to eight is that discretionary choices are best avoided or limited to no more than ½ a serve per day, or 0-2 serves for children who are taller or more active (2). For children and adolescents who are more active and not above their healthy weight range, the recommendations are for 0-2.5 serves per day of discretionary foods.
A discretionary food serve is equivalent to 25g chocolate, 1 small muffin, 1 muesli bar, ⅓ of a meat pie or sausage roll, or ½ can of soft drink.
There is also the issue of the message these products send to children. If kids are used to eating yoghurt with added chocolate or confectionery, how can we then expect them to eat plain old healthy yoghurt? And how can we avoid falling into the confectionery creep trap and ensure we leave the supermarket with food that is actually good for our kids?
The healthiest options for snacks are always fresh, unprocessed, unpackaged foods as close to their natural state as possible, however, we know this isn’t always realistic.
If you must choose packaged snack foods, opt for those without added confectionery, whether that be chocolate, yoghurt coatings, jellies, liquorice, nougat, toffee, fudge, marzipan or hundreds and thousands.
Base your child’s diet on the five food groups – such as fresh fruit and vegetables, whole grain foods, lean meat, poultry, fish, eggs, nuts and seeds, legumes and beans, and dairy products (mostly reduced fat) – and there will be little room left for discretionary foods!
- Rangan AM, Randall D, Hector DJ, Gill TP, Webb KL. Consumption of ‘extra’ foods by Australian children: types, quantities and contribution to energy and nutrient intake. Eur J Clin Nutr 2008;62(3):356-64.
- National Health and Medical Research Council. Australian Dietary Guidelines. Canberra: Commonwealth of Australia; 2013.