Do you know what your kids are eating? The importance of reading the label on the back of your snacks!

Farah in her previous corporate life, has worked in International business at Godrej Consumer Products Ltd and HR at Godrej Industries. She also spent eight years working with Bain & Company as a management consultant in their New York, London, Madrid and Delhi offices. Farah has an MBA from Harvard Business School and a joint-degree B.A and B.Sc. from the University of Pennsylvania.

Shreya is a co-founder at The Mommy Network and brings her in-depth understanding of the mother and child arena in India to the table at The Mumum Company. She spent twelve years as a management consultant with A.T. Kearney, advising companies across India and Asia Pacific on strategy and operations. Shreya has an MBA from INSEAD and MSc. and BSc. Economics degrees from the London School of Economics and Political Science.

As parents we are responsible for making healthy life choices for our children and so it becomes important to understand what exactly is in the packaged foods and what constitutes healthy snacks for kids.

Firstly and most importantly, don’t fall for foods claiming to be healthy on the front of the bag but lacking any detailed nutritional table or FSSAI license information on the back of the bag. Many of us purchase unlabeled goods from neighborhood stores which lack basic manufacturing information believing that these are made at home in an artisanal kitchen. However, these so called “easy snacks for kids” often contain hidden levels of sugars, salt and preservatives, which we often overlook due to an incomplete nutritional table on the back of the package. It’s the law to have nutrition and ingredients label on all packaged foods- so do demand it as a discerning consumer!

We’ve listed a few other key reasons why reading nutrition and ingredients label is essential for us parents:

1) Providing essential information: Nutrition labels play an important role in giving you essential information on calorie content, fats, sodium and sugars. Healthcare professionals recommend that you keep your intake of saturated fat, trans fat, added sugar, and cholesterol as low as possible as part of a nutritionally balanced diet.

  • Top Tip: Not all fats are bad! Unsaturated fats (monounsaturated, polyunsaturated and omega fatty acids) can often be beneficial to heart health. Healthy fats like these help children with much-needed fuel for their bodies and for the development of their brains and nervous systems

2) Making more informed nutrition choices: Growing children need a diet rich in iron, calcium and vitamins so your choice of healthy snacks for kids should maximize the nutrition in every bite. The healthiest snack brands will always emphasize the levels of these nutrients on the back of their bags so do keep an eye out for these.

  • Top Tip: Make sure your snack is rich in Minerals and Vitamins- Check for iron, calcium and other minerals and vitamins per 100g which will help you understand the information in terms of percentages

3) Checking for allergens: Checking the ingredients list will help you avoid foods that contain preservatives, additives, colours and added sugars or check whether foods are safe to eat if you have a food intolerance or are following a diet that excludes certain components, such as dairy or gluten.

4) Avoiding preservatives and chemicals: For children it is always good to avoid anything containing preservatives. Even so-called natural products sometimes contain natural food colours, natural permitted additives, tocopherols and nature identical ingredients.

  • Top Tip: A great rule of thumb is to make sure that your snacks have few ingredients and preferably nothing you cannot pronounce or understand! If you don’t recognize a word make sure you ask what it is, as many additives masquerade as ‘natural’

5) Watching out for sugars: In order to limit your intake of sugar, make sure that added sugars in any way or form are not listed as an ingredient. Sugar can often be hidden in your snacks through a variety of sources including corn syrup, high-fructose corn syrup, fruit juice concentrate, maltose, dextrose, sucrose and even honey and maple syrup.  Our mantra as parents is that processed sugar from anything but fruits can be harmful for kids so keep an eye out for the sugar content and the source of the sugar in the nutritional table.

Life as a parent is complicated enough already so look out for clean labels and natural brands where you do not need an advanced degree in food technology to understand what’s inside the bag!