Packaged baby and toddler foods: questions of sugar and sodium

Pediatr Obes. 2015 Apr;10(2):149-55. doi: 10.1111/j.2047-6310.2014.223.x. Epub 2014 Apr 23.


Background: Sugar and sodium levels in packaged foods is a critical consideration when it comes to the public health of Americans, yet little is known about the sugar and salt contained in packaged foods targeted at our youngest consumers.

Objectives: To examine the sugar and sodium content of packaged baby and toddler foods sold in the American marketplace and to evaluate them in light of current intake recommendations and the current policy context.

Methods: Content analysis of baby and toddler foods (n = 240) found in nine US retail stores. Summary statistics were created for sugar and sodium; the products' per-serving sodium levels were assessed in light of the US Institute of Medicine's dietary reference intakes while the products' sugar levels were evaluated in light of American Heart Association recommendations.

Results: Fifty-eight percent of the products assessed either have a high level of sodium or >20% of calories from sugar. Sodium levels in toddler foods were of concern in certain product categories (i.e., toddler entrées) and 15% of toddler foods exceeded the 'moderate level' recommended for sodium. Sugar levels were high in 45% of the products coded, and over half of those products - 56% - were designed for babies. More than one in six products had sugar as the first or second ingredient.

Conclusions: Baby and toddler foods are not, by definition, 'healthy' foods and some exceed normal expectations for sugar and sodium. A policy opportunity exists to consider placing limits on the allowable levels of sugar and sodium in these packaged food products.

Keywords: Baby and toddler; food and nutrition; sodium; sugar.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Child, Preschool
  • Dietary Sucrose / adverse effects
  • Dietary Sucrose / analysis*
  • Food Analysis
  • Food Labeling
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant Food* / analysis
  • Infant Nutritional Physiological Phenomena
  • Nutrition Policy
  • Nutritive Value
  • Policy Making
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Sodium, Dietary / adverse effects
  • Sodium, Dietary / analysis*
  • United States


  • Dietary Sucrose
  • Sodium, Dietary