Parents who feed their children so-called 'healthy snacks' could actually be giving them just as much sugar as some sweets, health officials have warned.
A new report from Public Health England (PHE) found that supposed 'healthy' baby foods are actually among the highest for sugar content.
The investigation by PHE looked at more than 1,100 foods aimed at babies and infants and found that some fruit-based products can contain up to two-thirds of sugar.
Three in four young children aged from 18 months to four years old are now consuming too many calories as a result, prompting health officials to call for clearer product labelling.
PHE warned that parents were being fooled into thinking they were making healthy choices for their children, with products often claiming to have high fruit or vitamin content, when in fact they are packed full of sugar.
Processed dried fruit products were found to be highest in sugar content, with officials warning that "these should not be marketed as suitable for children to eat between meals".
Parents are instead advised to opt for whole fruit and vegetables as snacks instead.
Processed dried fruit products were found to be highest in sugar content (Photo: Shutterstock)
Health officials have recommended parents opt for snacks such as fresh fruit, plain yoghurt, carrot sticks and toast fingers instead, as these are much lower in sugar.
Foods which claim to be "packed with real fruit" or "one of five a day", including fruit pouches and purees, are often misleading and distract parents from high sugar content.
“The way products are labelled and marketed is encouraging snacking, by suggesting to parents that these products form an expected and appropriate part of an infant’s diet, when many are biscuits or savoury snacks and others are similar nutritionally to confectionery,” the report warns.
Dr Alison Tedstone, chief nutritionist at PHE, said: "Some of these products have lots of statements saying they are one of your five a day, organic or full of vitamins.
"People can think these are great products that are good for you.
"But we are concerned about the high sugar content of these products and the growth in the market in that area.
"Some products, such as 100 per cent concentrated fruit drops and strips, were as high in sugar as sweets.
"They are basically sweets but they are marketed as being 100 per cent pure and it's confusing parents."