Make healthier purchases for your little one by ensuring that their food labels contain vital details about the ingredients...

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Whipping up nutritious foods for your baby is the best way to boost their development after you start weaning them.

While it’s a labour of love for you to steam, then mash or blend what they eat, which takes up a good chunk of your time, you are also grateful for the convenience of commercial baby food.

Indeed, the supermarkets and convenience stores are stocked with jarred purées and food pouches. These ready-made meals are a godsend when you have no time to cook or want something fuss-free for baby when going out.

And not all convenience meals for baby deserve the bad rap either. Some are made with organic ingredients without all nasty flavouring, added colouring and other synthetic additives.

Parkway East Hospital dietitian Louis Yap notes that most of these products also contain the carbohydrates, protein and fats that your peewee requires. But pay attention to the fine print on these products.

He notes, “I am referring to the potential allergic foods such as nuts including peanuts and tree nuts, milk, wheat, soy and egg that your child will need to avoid.”

Even if these allergens are not included in the product’s ingredients, the equipment used to make it may have come into contact with these allergy triggers.

So, as a precaution, always take note of the information on the food labels before purchasing it to avoid an allergic attack. Here’s what to look out for…

Infographic: Syahirah Maszaid

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#1 “Use by” or “Best Before” dates

* Tells you when the food needs to be consumed, so that you avoid changes in the food quality as well as potential health risks.

* This information is mandatory in products for the vulnerable such as infants.

* Yap advises you to check that the package is properly sealed and hasn’t been tampered with. If the packaging is transparent, check for any discoloration and for any odour, which will tell you that the food has spoiled.

#2 Age information

* This indicates that the food is safe/suitable for consumption by children of a specific age group. Yap says this information will give you an idea about the texture of the food and whether your child can chew and swallow its.

#3 Ingredients list

* Food manufacturers are required to list all ingredients on the product label.

* The ingredient listed first is present in the largest amount, followed in descending order by ingredients in smaller amounts ― what is listed last is present in the least amount.

#4 Storage directions

* Depending on the food product, some may have to be refrigerated immediately or after opening.

* Most dry products such as cereals and biscuits should be stored in your pantry away from direct sunlight.

#5 Allergy information

* Lists potential allergens such as wheat, eggs, milk, nuts and even royal jelly.

* It may also highlight if the product is manufactured using equipment that has been in contact with ingredients that are potential allergens, eg “Manufactured in a facility that also processes peanuts”.

#6 Health and Nutrition claims

*Pick items with the Healthier choice symbol, which is awarded by the Health Promotion Board. The symbol indicates that this product is healthier.

* If label indicates that this is “A source of vitamins/minerals”, the food product contains at least one-sixth of your daily allowance for that specified vitamin or mineral.

* If label says that it’s “Rich in”, “High in”, or “Good source of” a specific vitamin/mineral, then the product contains at least 50 per cent of your daily allowance.

* Yap cautions that you shouldn’t rush to buy products labelled with fancy words such as “organic” or “no added sugar or preservatives” as these terms are sometimes used for marketing purposes.

#7 Nutritional information panel

* Information on the suggested serving sizes of the product, either in grams or millilitres, and also the number of servings each package contains.

* Tells you the amount of calories according to the amount of energy, protein, saturated and unsaturated fat, sugar and sodium the food product contains.

* Calories are also divided according to per serving, or per 100g or 100ml portions.

* Yap advises that you use the “per 100 g” column to compare the nutritional differences between products, so as to pick the most appropriate for your child’s dietary needs.

Main Photo: iStock

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