Children's food - as healthy as advertising promises?

For some years, there are food on the market, which are exposed by special advertising measures as especially suitable for children. They are grouped under the term "children's food". However, there is no food law definition of this term.

Child food on the rise

The most advertised children's foods are sweets such as vitamin sweets, milk slices and chocolate bars, followed by dairy products (mixed milk drinks, fruit yoghurt, cream cheese and cottage cheese preparations), breakfast snacks (cereals, crunchy flakes of various kinds), spreads (nut nougat creams, chocolate creams, sausage), Convenience foods (ready meals such as pasta soups, pizzas, pizza) and drinks (calcium fortified juices, multivitamin juices, sodas). The number of children's food in Germany has multiplied in recent years. Especially in children's programs and at weekends, these products are advertised primarily in the private channels of television. Warnings, for example regarding an increased fat and sugar content, are completely absent.

By contrast, vitamin and mineral supplements are used to ensure that children's foods are particularly valuable for their diet. Colorful packaging, small portions, advertising and additional gifts in children's food as well as crackling, crackling, crunchy or pleasantly soft "mouth experiences" when chewing lead to children developing a high brand loyalty.

Do we need children's food? What is in it and what is it?

From a nutritional point of view, we do not need children's food because children can be fed safely and well after the first year of life with conventional foods. Children's foods are often sweet and fatty snacks that are primarily intended for consumption between meals.

75 percent of children's food contains sugar, including children's drinks and children's milk products, in significant proportions. In these cases, they have too many calories and have to be treated like a candy in terms of the amount consumed: something does not hurt if otherwise the diet is healthy. As a snack, they are not, however, because they displace the nutrient-rich main meals.

School children should not consume more than 50 to 60 grams of sugar per day. This is for example in two portions (250 grams) of children's yogurt, two glasses of lemonade or two chocolate bars. The addition of vitamins and minerals in children's foods does not make the fat and sugar that it contains any healthier: a nine-year-old child would have to eat 17 milk cuts to cover his daily calcium needs. At the same time, it would have consumed 40 pieces of sugar cubes (120 grams) and half a packet of butter!

Some tips as a buying aid

  • Milk slices and children's bars often consist of half of sugar. They are also often fat traps because in most cases they contain just as much fat (one third of the total) as pure chocolate. As a "healthy snack" they are therefore not suitable.
  • In the case of children's yoghurts, in addition to the sugar content, one should be careful to buy a yoghurt-based product because it contains far less fat than cream cheese yoghurts. Instead of fruit juice, sodas and effervesces contain only water, aromatic substances and a lot of sugar.
  • The fruit juice drinks contain only 6 to 30 percent fruit juice. Children's drinks on this basis are often upgraded by the addition of calcium and vitamins. This gives a low-mineral and vitamin-poor, but also very sugared foods a healthy image that it does not deserve.
  • Breakfast cereals can contain up to 40 percent sugar. They are among the most processed children's foods and consist mainly of flour, water, sugar and flavorings, as well as a long list of added vitamins and minerals. The good old muesli made from oatmeal and fruit is usually superior to the ready mixes. If you still buy a ready muesli, you should make sure that no additional sugar was added.
  • Recently, there are also special children's menus, children's soups and sausages for children. Behind the colorful packaging with the great fancy names are hidden but basically only normal dishes, as they eat the adults. In addition, the Stiftung Warentest criticized that ready-to-eat meals contained too much salt, too much sauce and too few vegetables.

Additives can make you sick and cover up missing quality

Children's foods are heavily processed products. The longer the list of ingredients on the packaging, the higher the degree of processing. From the order of the ingredients you can derive the quantities: what is most in it, is also at the beginning. Most additives are declared in the ingredients list of the food with E-numbers or an abstract class name.


Nearly all children's products (such as puree, tomato soup) are flavored. According to the Food Act, additives must be safe and technologically necessary, but this is a matter of interpretation. Of course, one asks for the benefit of countless colors and flavors, and one might suspect that these are often to cover up a lack of quality: A bag chicken soup, which often includes less than ten grams of meat, must get her chicken taste just elsewhere. The dye, for example, can simulate the lack of fruit.

It may also form allergies to some colorants and preservatives. Asthmatic, aspirin allergic and eczema sufferers are among the most vulnerable. It is believed that the taste of the children is adjusted to the added flavors in children's foods, and by this habituation takes place a turning away from natural foods. For example, the vanilla flavored vanilla flavoring is four times stronger than that of real vanilla. The consequence of this is that after consuming some flavored ready-to-eat sweets, we find the pudding fad made with real vanilla.

Sugar substitutes and sweeteners

The situation is similar with the addition of sugar substitutes. These are sweeteners with a similar energy content to sugars. They are suitable for diabetics and many of them are not broken down by the caries-producing bacteria. Therefore, sugar substitutes are found mainly in "sugar-free" declared chewing gum and candy. A side effect of these substances can be diarrhea. With a content of sugar substitutes of more than ten percent in the food, therefore, a corresponding warning must be noted on the packaging.

There are also the calorie-free sweeteners. They have up to 3000 times higher sweetness than sugar. Both sweeteners are not recommended for children as they increase the stimulation threshold for sweets more and more. With them, the preference for the flavor "sweet" increases more and more in children.

Ways to a health-conscious diet

The best way to have a healthy diet is to consume whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables and a low-fat cooking. However, one should not make the mistake of wanting to change the eating habits of the offspring by mere exhortations. Speak through a common, happy and funny everyday eating the heart and emotions of their children. Cook food with which you can also play once during the meal (alphabet soup, spaghetti) and promote the independence of your offspring: let your children choose what they want to eat more often.

When preparing a fruit salad even smaller children can help with it. Schoolchildren should be able to decide for themselves what they want on their lunch. Let your child choose the quantities that he wants to eat. Eating should never be given to children as a consolation, punishment or reward. Instead of sweets and snacks, a plate of small cut fruits and vegetables can also be put into the nursery.

You should note that children prefer smaller portions and have a strong sense of aesthetics. Therefore, rather pack the school bread, so it does not mess with the fruit and vegetable side dishes. If you provide a low-calorie and varied meal in this way, then your children can also quietly "snack on children's food".

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