Is junior taking too much salt and sugar?

For your tot’s sake, steer clear of fast and processed foods and start paying closer attention to his diet.

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Brit celeb chef Jamie Oliver sure has sautéed and stirred his way into our hearts as TV’s The Naked Chef, but these days, the 41-year-old father of five is also determined to change the way our kids eat. In 2010, Oliver told a TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) conference audience in Long Beach, California, that our children’s lives would be a decade shorter, thanks to a diet loaded with junk or processed food and additives, which is low in freshness and nutrition.

He adds, “Thirty years ago, most of the food was largely locally produced and fresh, now it’s largely processed, full of all sorts of additives and extra ingredients… Today, French fries are considered vegetables!”

“Thirty years ago, most of the food was largely locally produced and fresh, now it’s largely processed, full of all sorts of additives and extra ingredients.”

How much is too much?

This topic hits home as Singaporean children’s eating patterns have also changed over the years. Besides eating more meals outside the home, their portion sizes and frequency of snacking are also escalating. With more kids also choosing sweetened drinks over water or milk, their increased salt and sugar intake is making them fatter and sicker.

Salt and sugar are off-limits if your baby is below age 1. Yet, SmartParents expert and
paediatrician Dr Low Kah Tzay notes that a American Heart Association study revealed that children between ages 1 and 4 are busting their daily recommended intake of sugar of three to four teaspoons a day by consuming between 12 and 21 teaspoons ―  or up to seven times more. Other reports indicate that the average 3- to 4-year-old eats 9 to 10g of salt each day (one teaspoon is equal to 5g), about four times the recommended amount of 2.5g!

The numbers may be hard to swallow, but they don’t lie. Bibi Chia, principal dietitian at Raffles Diabetes & Endocrine Centre at Raffles Hospital, attributes this to parents’ increasing reliance on fast food or instant meals.

“Because it’s more convenient,” notes Chia, who is also the mother of sons of Primary school age. “It also doesn’t help that supermarkets are stocked floor-to-ceiling with items such as sweets, crisps and instant noodles.”

Click to find out how bad eating habits are formed…