Two young kids learning about the importance of nutrition with a table full of fruits and vegetables in front of them

#1 Nutrition Panels 101

a sample nutrition panel listing all the nutrition facts.

All pre-packaged food sold in Singapore must be labelled with a list of ingredients, net content, country of origin etc. Though not compulsory, many food items also include a nutrition information panel or nutrition facts panel.

Learning to read nutrition panels can pave the way for healthy eating and help you make wise food choices when you shop so that you don't fall prey to misleading nutrition claims. This is especially important if you have a growing child who needs good nutrition for healthy growth and development.

Related: Reading Food Labels — Making Sense of the Fine Print

#2 Common Items in Nutrition Labels

A lunch box – What is the nutrient content of all the food in this lunchbox?

Here are the common items listed in nutrition panels. Learn more about the recommended dietary allowances, e.g. the amount of dietary fibre, calcium and iron needed daily, for children.

  1. Energy:
    This indicates how many calories the food contains. The higher the calories per serving, the more energy it provides. Eating high energy food beyond what your body requires, and not doing sufficient exercise can cause weight gain. While children grow and naturally gain weight, putting on too much weight can lead to obesity.

  2. Protein:
    Children need enough protein to build their body tissues and muscles in order to grow strong.

  3. Calcium:
    Calcium is necessary for growing bones and teeth. Dairy and soy products carrying the Healthier Choice Symbol (HCS) are good sources of calcium for children.

  4. Dietary Fibre:
    Eating fibre rich food such as wholegrains, fruit and vegetables are good for the digestive system. Try different ways of encouraging your child to eat 2+2 servings of vegetables and fruit per day for essential vitamins and minerals, and sufficient dietary fibre.

  5. Vitamins and Minerals:
    These include vitamin B6, B12 and vitamin C to keep your child healthy. Wholegrain products, fresh produce such as lean meats and fruit and veggies will naturally contain the vitamins and minerals your child needs.

  6. Total Fat:
    Our body needs fats to function but eating too much fatty food can lead to weight gain and obesity. In addition, the type of fats matter. Polyunsaturated fats (omega 3 and 6) found in fish and grains, and monounsaturated fats in vegetable oils are good sources of fat as they are healthier while saturated fats and trans fat can increase the "bad" cholesterol in our bodies.

  7. Sodium:
    This indicates the amount of salt contained. Many processed food and tidbits contain high amounts of sodium, as well as other food additives.

  8. Sugar:
    Added sugar provides energy but little nutrients. Excess sugar we consume can result in weight gain. Therefore, limiting sugary treats and desserts reduces your child’s chances of obesity and dental problems.

Read the nutrition facts panel carefully to see if the information listed is for a single serving or otherwise. Also, remember that the serving size for an adult is not the same as a serving size for a child.

Related: Healthy Lunch-at-Home Ideas for School Children

#3 Child Nutrition is also about Quantity

Young girl getting a single serving of a healthy meal to meet her daily nutritional needs and foster proper growth and development

An easy way to plan a meal for your child is to use My Healthy Plate. It gives you an idea of how much wholegrains, fruit, veggies and lean meat to provide at each meal.

In addition, you can refer to the table below for the recommended number of servings for your child each day[1]:

Food Groups

Recommended number of servings per day

6 months (181 days) — 12 months

1 — 2 years

3 — 6 years

7 — 12 years

13 — 18 years

Brown Rice and Wholemeal Bread

1 — 2

2 — 3

3 — 4

5 — 6

6 — 7

Fruit

½

½ — 1

1

2

2

Vegetables

½

½

1

2

2

Meat and Others

Of which are dairy foods or calcium-containing foods

2

2

2

1

3

1

3

1

For infants aged 6 months — 12 months, their dairy foods or calcium-rich foods servings should be provided in the form of 750ml breast milk or infant formula.

Related: Nutrition for Your Toddler

#4 Choose Fresh and Unprocessed Ingredients

Use fresh and unprocessed raw ingredients when cooking as much as you can, especially if you are cooking for infants and toddlers.

If you buy pre-packaged food that carries nutrition information panels, always compare between items for the best nutrition value. Learn more on how to read food labels.

Good eating habits cultivated from young gives your child a healthy foundation for life!

Download the HealthHub app on Google Play or Apple Store to access more health and wellness advice at your fingertips.


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References

  1. HealthHub. (2015, Jun 09). A Healthy Food Foundation — for Kids and Teens [Website].
    Retrieved December 2016 from https://www.healthhub.sg/live-healthy/578/A%20Healthy%20Food%20Foundation%20-%20for%20Kids%20and%20Teens