(NaturalNews) Most of the food products made specifically for children are unhealthy and non-nutritious, even though the majority claim to provide some health benefit, according to a study conducted by researchers from the University of Calgary, Canada, and published in the journal Obesity Reviews.
The researchers examined the nutritional labels of 367 products targeted at children, including those featuring cartoons on the packaging or specifically tied to children's movies, television programming or merchandise. Only 11 percent of these products were found to provide good nutritional value, according to standards set by the nonprofit Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI).
According to CSPI guidelines, healthy children's food should provide no more than 35 percent of its calories from fat (except for nuts, seeds and nut butters). Added sugar should comprise no more than 35 percent of a product by weight, and sodium levels should be kept to a maximum of 230 milligrams per portion in snacks, or 770 milligrams per portion in pre-prepared meals.
CSPI notes that this does not constitute an ideal meal, but rather a compromise allowing for moderately unhealthy products as part of a balanced diet.
Of the children's food products that failed to meet the CSPI nutritional guidelines, 68 percent made positive nutritional claims on their packaging, such as claiming to be high in iron, a good source of whole-grain or low in fat.
"Parents may have questions about which packaged foods are good for their children," lead researcher Charlene Elliott said. "Yet certain nutritional claims may add to the confusion, as they can mislead people into thinking the whole product is nutritious."
Seventy percent of the products with poor nutritional quality were placed in that category because excessive sugar. Cereals and fruit snacks were among the most likely to make positive nutritional claims while having high sugar levels.