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While it is widely known that fast food and junk food are not good for children (or adults!), more often than not, parents are unaware of seemingly “harmless” foods that are actually packed with unhealthy substances that may impact on attention, concentration, moods and behaviour.

But without knowing what the substances on the label mean, it is difficult to know whether a product is bad for your child. Fortunately, Patrick makes it much easier to spot the substances that you should be avoiding with this guide:

  1. High in sugar. When a product lists sugar (or one of its guises) in the top three ingredients or more than once, you know that the product is high in sugar. Almost every processed food contains sugar, from baked beans to flavoured water. Work out the sugar content of a product by dividing the number of grams by 4.2 (a teaspoon equivalent) and see how many teaspoons of sugar is in the product. Other sugar guises to look out for are corn sweetener, corn syrup, dextrose, fructose, fruit juice concentrate, glucose, high-fructose corn syrup, honey, invert sugar, lactose, malt syrup, maltose, raw sugar, sucrose, artificial sweeteners and syrup.
  2. Low/reduced fat. Compare the label of these items to the original “full fat” version. You will be surprised to find that often these “better alternatives” contain more salt, sugar and artificial ingredients to compensate.
  3. Damaged fats. These are found in most margarines, deep fried foods and commercial cakes and pastries.
  4. Fruit juices. Unless it reads 100 % pure, most fruit juices only contain a small percentage of actual fruit and the rest is water, sugar and artificial ingredients. Pure fruit juice is also full of natural sugars although this can be reduced by diluting it with water.
  5. E-numbers. As a general rule avoid all foods with E-numbers.
  6. Salt. Often listed as sodium, the amount of salt in the product doesn’t equate directly to the sodium content. Multiply the sodium amount by 2.5 to get the salt content in teaspoons.

The easiest way to ensure your child is eating correctly is to follow these simple guidelines:

  • Stick to whole foods instead of eating processed foods.
  • Limit carbohydrates to whole grains as these are lower in sugar and contain more fibre.
  • Try to buy organic foods that are free from pesticide residues.
  • Include plenty of fish and seeds in their diet as these contain Omegas 3 and 6.
  • Ensure that they are getting plenty of vitamins and minerals by eating colourful vegetables
  • Ensure they are also on a good multivitamin like Smart Kids Optimum Nutrition.

Read Patrick’s Smart Food for Smart Kids and Optimum Nutrition for your Child for more information on ensuring your child is eating correctly.