A Comparative Study of the Sodium Content and Calories from Sugar in Toddler Foods Sold in Low- and High-Income New York City Supermarkets

  •  Lalitha Samuel    
  •  Danna Ethan    
  •  Corey Basch    
  •  Benny Samuel    


Information from the nutrition facts labels of toddler foods marketed in low- and high-income New York City zip codes were analyzed for sodium content, the proportion of sugar-derived calories, and presence of sugar and/or high-fructose corn syrup as an added sweetener in the list of ingredients. Among the 272 toddler foods analyzed, more than a quarter were high in sodium, over one-third derived at least 20% their calories from sugar, and more than 41% of the foods had sugar and/or high-fructose corn syrup listed among the first five ingredients. The proportion of foods with such nutritional characteristics did not significantly differ between the low- and high-income neighborhood supermarkets. Median sodium content was highest among “side dishes” and “meals.” The proportion of calories derived from sugar was found to be highest among “snacks and yogurt blends” in both low- and high-income neighborhoods and “breakfast foods and cereals” in low-income neighborhoods. When compared to high-income neighborhoods, more than three times the proportion of total calories in “breakfast foods and cereals” sold in low-income neighborhoods were derived from sugar. Since taste preferences established during childhood can have long-lasting influence on dietary habits, it is imperative to limit the promotion of toddler foods that are high in sodium and sugar as well as educate parents to make nutritionally sound decisions at the point of purchase.

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