McDonald’s Fries are healthier than Gerber Toddler Meals

Gerber Toddler Meal

Gerber Graduates

Just when you thought that McDonald’s is the poster child for unhealthy food for children, it turns out that the Gerber Lil’s Entrees are just as bad or actually even worse.  With all the craziness of our modern life sometimes it is just all too convenient to give a child packaged toddler meal thinking it is healthy. But the “Chicken and Pasta Wheel Pickups” dinner has 550 mg of sodium which is twice the amount contained in a medium sized order of French fries (270mg).  Toddlers 2-3 years old should consume a maximum of 1000mg of sodium a day.

Theses toddler meals are marketed as suitable for children 1 year or older.  Also stay away from these meals also:

Gerber Graduates Lil’ Entrée – Macaroni and Cheese with Peas and Carrots – 520 mg of sodium

Gerber Graduates Lil’ Entrée –  Cheese Ravioli in Tomato Sauce with Carrots, Peas and Corn.

Another surprise product is Cheerios, which has about 230mg of sodium per 1 cup of serving.  It shocks me, scares me and concerns me that two of the most popular toddler foods, Goldfish crackers and Cheerios are just so unhealthy for them. I wish there was a way to measure how much sodium and sugar a child has consumed over the course of the day.

Why should this concern us?

Simple reason: excessive sodium intake results in a wide array of diseases such as obesity, high blood pressure, stroke, etc…

Here’s a nifty little tool, salt-o-meter that shows how much sodium there is in a wide range of products.

But before you start feeding your toddler French fries, remember that whatever benefit you get from lower salt is negated by their fat content.

Better yet, make the Gerber meal yourself. It’s as simple as this:

1)      Boil your own peas

2)      Make the pasta and add homemade tomato sauce or low sodium tomato sauce that can be found at many places. If it isn’t salty enough for you, you can add parmesan cheese.

3)      Either make or pick up a no-salt rotisserie chicken from the grocery store.

You can turn this whole meal into a family meal!

Other articles you may like:

Keep away the salty Goldfish Crackers

Are McDonald’s Happy Meals making your children McFat?


  1. Oh my, This is quite shocking. Sodium or too much of it is really not healthy, no wonder the life span of the next generation keeps getting shorter :( I hope somebody does something to control this or regulate it :(

  2. Robert Howard says:

    Your outrage might be more justified if any of your quoted facts were accurate. A cup of Cheerios has 160mg of Sodium, not 230. And 3/4 cup is the recommended serving size for under 4 years, bringing it down to 120. The Chicken and Pasta Wheels has 400, not 550. The Mac and Cheese with Peas and Carrots has 420, not 520. You didn’t even include a number for the Cheese Ravioli, but it is, in fact, 320. Cheerios for breakfast and any two of the other three for lunch and dinner is below 1000mg per day.

  3. solinox says:

    just FYI, the link between sodium and blood pressure is not cut-and-dried. Recent studies have shown an increase in death rate from cardiac events over the long term in patients on low-sodium diets, regardless of blood pressure or heart disease. Reducing sodium is not the great thing they’ve been saying, just like low-fat and low-cholesterol are not great things. All these are needed elements in our diets. Salt to taste and don’t worry about it if you don’t have health problems.

    I’d be more worried about the preservatives that are likely flooding those meals. I can taste preservatives in packaged food and I hate it.

  4. admin says:

    Hi Robert,

    Appreciate your comments on the current sodium content of the products discussed in my post. Here is another post that is referring to the same level of sodium on toddler meals posted around the same time as my blog post. So the numbers referenced in my article are accurate – Also, if you google the “Chicken and Pasta Wheel Pickups” dinner has 550 mg of sodium” keyword you will see other articles referring to the same sodium amounts.

    Since my article was written almost a year and a half ago, I believe Gerber has mostly likely changed the formulation of the products to use less sodium. The above article even has a Nestle person saying this – “A spokesman for Nestle, which owns Gerber, said reducing sodium “to an acceptable level” in the brand’s six toddler meals is a key priority.”


  5. admin says:

    Very true. I agree with you on tasting the “preservatives”. We mostly eat freshly made food from scratch and when we do these processed meals they just taste sooooo off and just soooo salty. But human nature is fascinating coz you eat these meals for a week in a row and they taste perfectly fine and yummy! Thank you for your comment.

  6. Chance says:

    Really? You wish there was a way to measure how much sodium and sugar your kid has consumed today? I have an idea. Try, I don’t know, keeping track of how much sodium and sugar your kid has consumed today. Use a notepad, your smartphone, or if you’re good with numbers, do it in your head. Maybe do the same for yourself. It’s called math.

    Or, better yet, just cook, using things that don’t require a nutrition panel (they’re called “ingredients”). Don’t cook with weird additives, don’t add a bundle of salt, don’t worry about it because congratulations, you’re smart enough to eat something that didn’t come with microwave instructions.

    If it’s about the convenience of heating something up and serving it, there’s a neat trick about that, too. They call this method “leftovers.” You have these two devices in your kitchen called a fridge and a freezer. Use ’em.

  7. Robert Howard says:

    Rashmi – thank you for proving me right. The article you quote as a defense of your inflated numbers actually says:

    “”Current packages of Gerber ‘Lil Entrees overstate the sodium level as they include the sodium contained in the brine (liquid) surrounding the vegetables, which is not consumed,” Dr. Andrea Papamandjaris, head of Nestle’s medical and scientific unit, said Tuesday in an emailed statement. “The package includes instructions to drain the brine before serving.”

    The brine accounts for 19 to 33 per cent of the sodium, depending on the recipe, said Papamandjaris, noting that new packaging showing sodium levels only for the consumed food will be on store shelves in July.”

    Immediately after the part you quoted.

    I also notice you don’t offer any explanation for your overstated sodium content in Cheerios.

  8. KristaKreavice says:

    In no way, shape, or form would i even feed these so called “healthy” prepackaged meals to my children, precisely for the reasons in this article. They are unhealthy and packed with preseratives…. I grow my own vegetables and some of my own fruits, and what i buy is certified organic. I make my own pasta because you have no idea what is being done to this food in factories. My children are perfectly healthy and that`s why i put in the extra effort to do these things. I have three children all under 6, i work and i am a single mom, so if I can do this to ensure my childrens health, so can everyone else, and it is soooo much cheaper than you think…..

  9. admin says:

    Robert — no one drains the brine! Even Gerber indicates that the brine is supposed to stay in, regardless of what their instructions say. Look at the picture above of the packaging. You can clearly see the brine in the pasta, and even in the spoon that is used to hold the pasta. These packaged meals are designed to be nuked and served in the tray that comes in the package.

    Telling people to drain the brine is a typical marketing tactic.

  10. admin says:

    Hi Krista,

    You are my hero! Everyone would agree on the health benefits of “making your own” from scratch but people often forget how cheap it is to do these things at home. It does require a little bit of planning and effort but once you get it, it is pretty easy. In our home because we limit buying packaged goods (chips etc.) I can feed my family of 4 for about $80-100 bucks a week and this includes organic dairy, organic meat and buying organic veggies and fruits for fruits and veggies that are high in pesticides.


  11. Sandi A says:

    My son eats these occasionally, because he loves them. And I don’t see an issue with giving him one every once in a while – I see this being a problem only if it’s all you ever give them. Oh, and I DRAIN THE BRINE…so please don’t say that NO ONE does it.

    I get really tired of people tromping all over those of us who don’t grow, process, and strain all our own foods for our kids. I’m truly glad that there are women out there who can work, take care of their family, and do all that as well – congratulations to you for being Super Woman!! I am a SAHM of 4 and a full time college student…if my kid wants to eat a freaking Gerber meal once a week, who are you to tell me that’s wrong??

    And notice how you’re all up-in-arms about the sodium, but COME ON – the FAT content in McDonalds fries is like twice the daily recommended for a child.

  12. admin says:

    Hi Sandi – Thanks for responding! I agree with you wholeheartedly. It is only a problem if it is all you ever give your children. I am happy to hear you drain the brine- you are definitely the first one to say that. I stand corrected.

    Like you said, if your kid ‘wants to eat a freaking Gerber meal once a week’, that’s no biggie. The point is that one can eat junk as long as one knows that they are eating junk, and as long as they can make it up other times. But oftentimes people forget or are just not aware that what they are eating has very low nutritional value.

    In regards to your point on the fat content on McDonald’s Fries, kids need a higher % of fat than adults do in their daily diets. For young kids under 4 it is recommended that they get about 30-35% of their calories from fat. Since daily recommended calorie intake is 1000-1400, so anywhere from 300 – 490 calories should come from fat. 9 calories = 1 gm of fat. So that means young children can eat about 33- 54 gms of fat daily. Looking at the nutrition information for McDonald’s – a serving of small French fries has 11gms of total fat and a serving of medium sized French Fries has 19 gms of fat. Hence the fat content in the fries in less than the maximum recommended fat intake for children.

    Yes I am hung up on the sodium intake because it is one of the 3 culprits in the current unhealthy eating epidemic. It was shocking to me that a baby food product at the time of writing the original post had more sodium than something as unhealthy as fried French fries. You don’t expect that in food meant for babies and toddlers! Looking at nutritional labels for Gerber products in the grocery stores now, it appears that they have made some changes in their formulation with regards to the sodium content, so they are trying to make changes.

    Hats off to you too! Being a SAHM with 4 kids and going to school fulltime is no easy feat!

  13. jennifer says:

    Okay, I ALSO drained the brine, as per the package instructions.
    And children are suppose to get more fat, as it develops the brain, but it should be healthy fats from dairy etc, not refined nasty fat.

  14. kylemac6 says:

    Sorry. I know this article is old and it’s been a long time since anyone commented, but I just wanted to add that I drain the meal after cooking it, too. Why wouldn’t you? The package says to and, if you don’t, then the whole meal is like soup.

    As a side note, my daughter doesn’t like peas. When I give them to her, she mashes them up in a pile and says “I’m making apple pie, Daddy!” I have no idea where she got her apple pie recipe from. When I eat apple pie, it usually contains apples.

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