By : Apeksha Thakkar Clinical Dietitian, Certified Diabetes Educator and Nutrigenomic Counselor
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Biscuits, Are they healthy for Children?

Biscuits are an all-time favourite snack for children. But, is our child’s craving for these treats causing harm to their health?

Children need healthy foods and nutritious snacks as they are growing. Since snacks add to the total calorie intake per day, eating healthy snacks is important.

Most mothers see biscuits as an easy and healthy snack option, thanks to the commercials that present biscuits as a substitute for fruits, milk, and grains, filled with energy, vitamins and minerals. But we need to realize this, biscuits cannot replace your child’s healthy meal options. 

 

Truth about the Ingredients in a Biscuit

The main ingredients in a  biscuit are  wheat flour, sugar, fat, and water. They are mixed with other minor ingredients (baking powder,  milk, emulsifiers and preservatives) 

Wheat flour – sounds healthy, right? But this is not the ‘whole’ wheat flour which is used to make rotis .It is refined wheat flour which is plain maida.     Due to the refining process, most of the nutrients and fiber are lost. 

Refined flour present in biscuits increases blood sugar rapidly which leads to diabetes in the long run.

A lack of fiber can cause constipation and irregular bowel movements both in children and adults.

Sugar - Most biscuits contain refined sugar which  is a source of instant energy. The other forms of sugar used are liquid glucose, invert sugar syrup, corn syrup etc. 

Excess consumption of sugar  especially for children, can cause cavities, increased fatigue, sugar addiction and obesity. 

Next time, look for natural form of sugar  like jaggery , cane sugar, brown sugar, honey in food label.

In a report by the Consumer Education and Research Centre (CERC), it was stated that sugar and fat content in cream-based biscuits manufactured in India is usually above 25 g and 20 g  per 100 grams, respectively .The World Health Organisation recommends less than 20 grams for both. You can do the maths for a whole packet which is more than 100 gms.

Hydrogenated Vegetable Oils(trans fats) - Trans fats are used in the biscuits for consistency and texture for longer duration. Most of the packaged food contains artificially produced trans-fat which are zero in nutrients and harmful to health.

Trans fats leads to an increase in bad cholesterol in the body, which can cause nervous disorders, allergic conditions, diabetes, and obesity in children.

Food Additives: Most biscuits are loaded with chemicals in the form of emulsifiers, preservatives, and colouring agents to increase shelf-life and add flavour. Sulphites bromates and benzoic acid are the names that will pop out of the labels. 

Raising agents such as baking soda can cause acid reflux in young children. 

Food additives added to biscuits leads to salt overdose particularly in children which can cause a fluctuation in blood pressure and increase risk of heart disease in the long run. The sodium chloride and bicarbonate  mentioned on the packet are forms of salt.

(doi: 10.4172/2155-9600.1000675 )

Preservatives like BHA (butylated hydroxyanisole) and BHT (butylated hydroxytoluene) added to certain biscuits have been linked to food allergy, increased levels of cholesterol and risk of cancer in the long run.   

(doi: 10.9755/ejfa.2016-07-806)

Mothers, do not fall into the trap called “Healthy for Children” with eyes closed!

 

The health claims made ! 

With parents anxious over what their child eats ,commercial brands too have modified their strategies to sell their products. Smart labelling and ads are the tactic used to attract the concerned parent. “High fiber”, “wholewheat” or “rich in calcium” are highlighted .The claim may not be completely false but there is more than meets the eye!

Many healthy versions of biscuits read no maida, no trans fats ,no cholesterol but  high in fiber.For example a brand claims rich in fiber,which is 6 gm/ 100g approximately. So per serving* (2 biscuits) will provide you a mere 0.9 g dietary fiber along with  sugar and saturated fat ! A serving of fruit gives your child more fiber than that.

*serving size varies from brand to brand

Another health claim  is “rich in calcium” that is  60-90 mg  per 100 gm of biscuits .The recommended intake of calcium for children is 600-800 mg/day (ICMR) .So a whole packet  will give you some calcium ,more fats and sugar too free!

And when you read  “wholewheat “or “fibre-rich” , the actual proportion of wholewheat and fibre may be just 15-20 % while the remaining part is maida. 

Even if sugar and carbohydrates are listed separately, remember,carbohydrates too are broken down into sugar  which raises the sugar levels in the blood.

*Sugar free biscuits may not have refined sugar but are filled with artificial sweeteners and regular intake can have severe side effects .The fruit flavoured cream biscuits you let your child have is  loaded with artificial flavourings and not natural fruit sugars. 

(https://jglobaloralhealth.org/sugar-substitute-key-facts-for-their-use-a-review/)

 

 Healthier Alternatives

Biscuits are heavy in calories ,lack essential nutrients and a child never stops with just one.So,do we want our children to munch on them every time they are hungry ? We do have better choices.

Choose whole wheat cookies or multi grain millet (ragi, oats) cookies as a better option for kids.

Make fresh, home-made biscuits, with whole wheat flour or millets and nuts, dried fruits, a healthy version for your child without artificial agents. 

 

The Takeaway

As parents, you must be aware that children need more than instant delicious snacks. They need healthy and nutritious food. There cannot be a short cut when it comes to your child’s health. So be smart when you pick a packet of biscuit from the GRD Bix are tasty and healthy, which can be great options for snacking. They are nutritionally adequate to support growth and development. They are available in super cardamon and vanilla flavours making them irresistible.

 

                                            Wishing your child health and happiness forever!

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