Are Noodles Good for Babies & Kids?
Noodles for babies/kids have quickly become a staple food of the present. When parents are short on time, and their children need something to eat, they readily opt for instant noodles. Nowadays, with a variety of instant noodle brands, it has become so easy to purchase a flavour your child loves. But amid all this rush and instant preparation of food, we forget about the nutritional value instant noodles provide. It’s time you assess whether or not noodles are the right food for your child. And we shall discuss just that in this article. Let’s first understand if noodles are safe for babies and infants.
Is It Safe to Feed Noodles to Your Kid?
Noodles are a type of pasta made with dough. Homemade noodles are a staple in several parts of the world and are safe to consume as they do not have chemicals and preservatives. But, the ones you get in the market, including instant noodles, have chemicals and preservatives that do not make them a great choice for children. Noodles, whether homemade or market-bought, are unsafe for infants (0-12 months) as they could choke on them. For older kids, stick to healthier options- like vermicelli or whole wheat noodles and avoid instant noodles.
Let’s look at why noodles/instant noodles are not meant for your little one.
Why Are Instant Noodles Not Right for Your Kid?
Here are some more reasons why instant noodles aren’t good for your little one.
1. Highly Processed
Primarily made out of maida, instant noodles are processed for packaging and have low nutritional value. Such food items are best avoided because children miss out on essential vitamins and minerals when they consume instant noodles.
2. Trans Fats Carriers
Noodles are steamed and then deep-fried in oil to extend their shelf life. This leads to trans fats from the oil becoming a part of noodles, which could lead to weight gain in your child.
3. Poor Eating Habits
Regular consumption of instant noodles may contribute to the development of poor eating habits in children, as they may become accustomed to prioritizing convenience over nutritious food choices. This can set a negative precedent for their dietary preferences and lifestyle habits in the long term.
4. Food With Propylene Glycol
Noodles cannot be dry and need to retain their internal moisture. This is attained by adding propylene glycol to them. Kids are sensitive to additives. It is best to avoid food with additives to prevent side effects.
5. Presence of Monosodium Glutamate
MSG is an ingredient known to enhance the flavour of many instant noodles. This chemical is harmful to children and adults since it is known to lead to brain damage. However, it is essential to note that many instant noodles do not contain MSG. So, whenever buying noodles, do check for the ingredients.
6. Sodium As a Preservative
Noodles already contain salt in high amounts to preserve them for long durations. Sodium, the element in salt, also directly affects the vital organs, increases the risk of gastric cancer, and can cause damage when consumed excessively.
7. Presence of Harmful Chemicals
Apart from the aforementioned reasons, various chemicals such as plasticisers and dioxin are present in the material used for packaging noodles. These chemicals can be carcinogenic and might remain in the noodles even after you cook them. One may assume that their quantity of consumption isn’t high or that they take care while cooking, but certain factors which can cause cancer are not a risk worth taking.
8. High in Empty Calories
Instant noodles are often high in calories but low in nutritional value, providing what are commonly referred to as “empty calories.” These empty calories can lead to weight gain and malnutrition in children if consumed regularly.
Sometimes, even after knowing that noodles, especially instant noodles, are unsafe for babies, you might find yourself with nothing but a pack of instant noodles. And, when your little one cannot control his hunger, you might have to feed it to him. But the good news is that there are ways you can make it a little safer for your child.
Things to Remember When Feeding Noodles to Kids
As tasty as various noodle recipes for kids might be, after knowing about their harmful nature, one needs to be more careful before directly serving them to your children. Here’s what you can do to make it less harmful than it was before. Having said that, we recommend avoiding feeding noodles to your kids altogether.
- You can make noodles at home using healthier ingredients, like wheat or potato. When cooking the market-bought noodles, make sure that noodles are drained well so that all the excess fat and salts are removed.
- Instead of resorting to the packaged flavouring and seasoning that comes with each packet of instant noodles, try using homemade seasoning alternatives that do not contain salts and other chemicals in large quantities.
- While cooking the noodles, choose a healthy oil alternative to standard palm/refined oil. Try virgin olive oil or any cold-pressed or filtered oil, or avoid adding oil altogether.
- To increase nutritional value, add chopped vegetables, such as cabbage, carrots, peas, beans, etc., to make them visually appealing and tasty.
- While purchasing noodles from the market, keep an eye on noodles that have sodium and other fats in low quantities. Most of them are earmarked for adults, so you might have to hunt a little more to get the right one to feed your children or use plain vermicelli.
If you are convinced that noodles are an unhealthy snack for your kid, you may want to keep enough alternatives to satisfy his hunger and get his mind off instant noodles.
Healthy Alternatives for Instant Noodles
Here are some foods you can replace instant noodles with and provide other nutritious snacks to your kid:
- Roasted Dry Fruit – You can stock dry fruits, like almonds, walnuts, cashew nuts, raisins, etc., to provide a healthier snack instead of instant noodles. Ensure your baby can chew them properly and is not allergic to any of the dried fruits.
- Roasted Peanuts – Roasted peanuts is another great alternative for instant noodles. Again, ensure your child is not allergic to peanuts.
- Sprout Bhel – Replace instant noodles with some delicious bhel. Try to make it at home for hygiene reasons, as street feed is quite infamous for giving an upset stomach.
- Yoghurt – Yoghurt will not only satisfy your kid’s hunger, but it will also aid digestion and keep his stomach cool. Add some puree and chopped fruit, and you’ll have another delicious snack for your little one. Make sure it is not flavoured.
- Oatmeal – Oatmeal is another snack that doesn’t take a lot of time to cook. Cook it with some milk, fruit, honey, etc., to make a sweeter version or give it an Indian “tadka” and prepare a savoury dish.
- Organic or Homemade Noodles – Locally made organic noodles, like vermicelli, rice noodles, etc., can be a smart shift to let your kids know that you are serving noodles, just of a different kind.
- Veggie Sticks With Hummus – Cut up carrots, cucumbers, bell peppers, and other veggies into sticks and serve with homemade hummus for a nutritious and satisfying snack.
- Quinoa Salad – Quinoa is a protein-rich grain that can be cooked and mixed with colorful veggies, herbs, and a light vinaigrette to create a flavorful and healthy salad option for kids.
1. What types of noodles are best for kids?
Opt for noodles made from whole grains like whole wheat or brown rice, as they are higher in fiber and nutrients compared to refined flour noodles. Additionally, look for noodles with minimal additives and avoid those with high sodium or MSG content.
2. How do instant noodles affect children’s health in the long run?
Consuming instant noodles regularly can contribute to various health issues in children over time. These may include weight gain due to high sodium and unhealthy fat content, nutritional deficiencies from lack of essential nutrients, potential long-term effects on organ health due to preservatives and additives, and an increased risk of developing chronic conditions like obesity, cardiovascular diseases, and digestive problems. Therefore, it’s advisable to limit or avoid instant noodles in a child’s diet for better long-term health outcomes.
There are tons of other alternatives, such as soups, wraps, and many other preparations, that you can serve to your child. However, if your child is already hooked on instant noodles, you can incentivise the serving by limiting the number of times you purchase it and dish it out only on certain occasions and definitely not as a treat.
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