1. Double-check nutritional claims on the nutrition facts box and ingredient list.
A lot of local snack brands now sport the Department of Health’s “Sangkap Pinoy Seal” (SPS) which guarantees that the product has been fortified or enriched with vitamins and/or minerals. “Enriched” means that vitamins and minerals have been added to replace the ones lost during the refining process; “fortified” means it has additional vitamins and minerals aside from the ones found before the refining process. According to the Food and Nutrition Research Institute (FNRI), descriptive terms like “good source of” and “rich in” don’t suggest fortification, but the terms “added with” and “supplemented with” do.
“Natural” doesn’t always mean fewer calories or that it’s healthier; it means that the product contains no preservatives or artificial coloring or flavors.
If a label says “trans fat-free,” “0 grams trans fat,” or “no trans fat” but has “partially hydrogenated oil” or “hydrogenated oil” in the ingredients, then it contains trans fat. Products that have “fully hydrogenated oil” are trans fat-free. Trans fatty acids increase bad cholesterol and decreases good cholesterol.
A lot of snack aisle items are laden with MSG and other flavor enhancers like sodium. MSG can cause of a lot of food-induced sensitivities like headaches, shortness of breath, and rapid heartbeat; however, reactions are short-term. Studies haven’t proven that MSG has any long-term effects at all. You will find a few local brands that claim their products contain “No MSG” or “No Added MSG.” But MSG can be hidden under different aliases like “natural flavorings” (since MSG is a natural product) and “hydrolyzed vegetable protein.” “No Added MSG” doesn’t necessarily mean the product doesn’t have MSG; it may mean that the product already contained MSG and that the food manufacturer didn’t add any more MSG during processing.
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Don’t be misled by “multi-grain” and “wheat” snacks. Most cookie, biscuit, and cracker brands are made from “enriched wheat flour”—and these are usually the first item on the ingredients list. “Enriched wheat flour” indicates that the bran and germ of the wheat grain have been removed. You have to look for products with “whole grain” or “whole wheat,” as these are richer in dietary fiber, vitamins, and minerals.
2. Choose packages that limit portions.
Even if you are buying a small, one-ounce pack, keep in mind that each single serving is based on a 2,000-calorie diet. According to the FNRI, toddlers only require 1,070 calories daily, while preschoolers require 1,410 calories. Mayoclinic.com says that a toddler’s serving size is about one tablespoon of food for each year of age. For preschoolers, the experts recommend giving 100 to 150 calories per snack.
Watch out for sodium count, too, as salty snacks can dehydrate your child.