Have you noticed the little white cylinder that’s sometimes seen at the front of packaged food labels? It's an easy way to help monitor how much should your child be eating of a certain food or drink especially when you're at the grocery.
Issued by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) of the Department of Health (DOH) through Circular No. 2012-015, the information on the white cylinder will tell you how many calories a specific serving of food will give. It can help you know if your child has reached his Recommended Energy and Nutrient Intake (RENI) for the day, a guideline given by the FDA to promote healthy eating.
Why follow the RENI? Too much calories, sugar, sodium and fat can lead to a range of diet-related diseases including obesity. According to former FDA acting director Dr. Kenneth Hartigan-Go, obesity in children can lead to acquired diabetes and juvenile hypertension, both of which are growing serious health problems.
“Knowing the nutrient content relative to size per serving, the consumers are able to make healthy choices,” says the DOH.
Ready to try it out? Before you’re able to use the information in the white cylinder, you should first know how much calories your child should get in a day, also known as your child’s RENI. Here’s a table provided by the DOH to help you out:
Now that you have your child’s RENI, it’s time to take advantage of the front-of-pack (FOP) declaration. First, check for the serving size. In the photo of a beverage packaging shown below, one serving is 240mL or equal to one cup. The cylinder also tells you how much calories is in that one serving, in this case, its 100 calories per 240mL.
Let’s say your child is 4 years old. According to the table, her RENI is 1,410. A cup of the beverage already takes up 7% of her RENI which leaves 1,310 calories for the rest of the day. If you use the tool for every meal and snack, you’ll be able to find out if your child is consuming too much calories or is not getting enough of it.
It is important to remember that some food items provide empty calories and provides no nutritional benefit for your child. Eating healthy doesn’t only mean reaching the recommended RENI but also getting calories (also know as energy) from good food like whole grain, fruits and vegetables, and protein that make up a balanced diet.
“The FDA will soon expand the voluntary FOP labeling requirement to cover sugar, sodium and fats,” says the DOH, which we hope will happen soon as the FOP doesn’t mention that the beverage above contains 25g of sugar per serving. The recommended added sugar daily intake for kids 2 to 18 years old is less than 25g. Read more about the latest recommended sugar intake for kids here, which also says children below 2 should not get any sugary drink at all.