Perhaps because of their appearance, thin and crunchy, biscuits have always had a better reputation than other industrial confectionery products. They are associated with easy children’s breakfasts and snacks and are seen with better eyes by parents than a Neapolitan or a croissant, but the reality is that the ingredients are very similar. A
OCU study warns that eight out of ten children’s cookies are unhealthy. Of the 305 children’s biscuits selected by the consumer organization, 253 obtain a D or E rating, the lowest in Nutriscore. Only 15 cookies get an A or B and generally corresponds to the traditional Maria type cookies with no added sugar, but with sweeteners.
Precisely excess sugar is what most penalizes nutritional assessment of cookies: on average, one in three grams of product is directly sugar. And those that replace it with sweeteners they usually use polyalcohols, “a type of sweeteners whose consumption can have laxative effects, even more so in children due to their low body weight,” they warn from the OCU. The rest of the ingredients, according to the analysis of the consumer organization, are not of much better quality: saturated fats, which can add another third of the weight; refined flours, aromas and additives.
In the opinion of the dietitians-nutritionists consulted by ABC Salud, these are ultra-processed products and its consumption, even those labeled with Nutriscore A or B, should be occasional. «It does not have to be a food of habitual frequency because it does not have a good nutritional quality. It is an expendable product, ”says Lali Garcés, member of the Health Commission of the Official College of Dieticians-Nutritionists of the Valencian Community (CODiNuCoVa).
The expert points out that the consumption of cookies is so established that she finds parents asking her which ones they can give their children even before they try the fruit. “There is no need for them to eat cookies. On a nutritional level, from the beginning of complementary feeding, we should start giving them good quality options such as seasonal and local fruit,” he says. This expert warns that the risk of offering very sweet products from a very young age, such as juices, cookies and other types of industrial pastries, is that their palate gets used to a sugar level that makes them reject other foods later of good quality such as vegetables, fruits and legumes.
Not even those cookies that brag about their fiber content or vitamins and minerals they are worth it. “You can get these vitamins and minerals from fresh foods, and the fiber, of better quality, is found in vegetables, fruits or whole grains,” says Garcés, who doesn’t think it’s bad that cookies can be in a breakfast or occasional snack, but not as something daily. And there is also another problem: that in many cases the child not only eats those cookies but also eats juices, sugary dairy products, other pastries… and it all adds up.
The risks of a diet with excess sugars range from overweight and obesity to insulin resistance. It is also not much better if the product contains sweeteners to replace sugar. “It wouldn’t be ideal. It does not have the load of sugars but they continue to provide other low quality nutrients and we get used to that artificial sweet taste which makes the fruit more difficult to accept later,” he concludes.
Even if we choose to make them at home, with quality ingredients (whole grains, olive oil, butter, eggs, pure cocoa, nuts, milk, less sugar…), they are still pastries and, as such, they should take occasionally. «It is not about prohibiting this type of product, but it is not necessary to offer them either. Food should not be used as a reward or as a punishment, “he advises.
In this sense, Ana Márquez Guerrero, dietician-nutritionist at Nutrisana Educación, does not understand that biscuits continue to be offered in hospitals, which are ultra-processed, in breakfasts and snacks for patients. “It’s kind of misguided. One thing is punctually, but not every day. There are other tasty and good options such as fruit, nuts or yogurt with dates, depending on the characteristics of the patient”, he says.
The WHO recommends that the daily consumption of free sugars does not exceed 25 grams. “Calculate how much you’re taking with three cookies,” Márquez recommends. The expert also advises looking at the quality of the fats that are used: “preferably olive oil or high oleic sunflower oil, we are not interested in the rest”; and in the quality and type of cereals (better whole grains).
More nutritious alternatives
There is life beyond cookies and without complicating life too much. The experts consulted recommend fruit, cheese, French omelette or hummus sandwiches; boiled egg, plain yogurt, plain milk, homemade smoothie of ripe fruit and milk, or a canteen of water. “No juice if they take cookies or cake, which already has its grams of sugar,” concludes Márquez.