Sugar for Infants & Toddlers
When you hear the word SUGAR, what pops into your head?
Do you start singing... "Ahh sugar, dun dun da dun dun, ahh honey honey, you are my candy girrrllll...." ??
No? Is that just me?
Well, this sweet white stuff has been the topic of many a conversation, research, and documentary over the last several years. While we don't think that sugar is evil or poison, it should be regulated and eaten in moderation.
We know that sugar is not a health food. In fact, that the American Academy of Pediatrics (and other reputable health organizations, like the American Heart Association) recommend infants & toddlers less than 2 years old to NOT consume any added sugars.
What is Sugar?
Sugar is a chemical compound found in several types of food. For example, fructose is the chemical form of sugar found naturally in fruits and lactose is found naturally in milk. It is the main source of energy that our body uses to function, to keep organs operating, and to keep our body working the way we need it to. However, added sugars are different. They are sugars and syrups that are added to our food in the preparation process and provide no nutrient value.
The Concern with Sugar
Excess added sugar intake has been seen to play a role in disease proliferation, from increased risk of dental caries, contributing to overweight and obesity, and associated with increased risk of Cardiovascular Disease, the leading cause of death among adults in the United States. Risk for other health diseases are increased as well, such as type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, fatty liver, and more.
With added sugars containing no nutritional value, the concern for infants and toddlers is that consuming foods with added sugars will take the place of the many nutrients that are vital to infants’ growth and development. Eating foods with added sugars can replace the nutrient dense foods that their little bodies need to be consuming.
Little ones are also learning their taste preferences. We are born with a preference for sweet foods due to a survival mechanism. While this is helpful for survival, when a young infant or toddler is given added sugars it may influence their taste preference causing an increase of consumption of sweetened foods as they grow.
How to Avoid Added Sugars
Here are ways that you can navigate around added sugars for your infants and toddlers:
Do not give foods containing added sugar to your infants or toddlers less than 2 years old. Any sweet, dessert, candy item will contain added sugar. Many packaged foods do as well, so keep reading for more on how to decipher these foods.
Do not give fruit juices.The American Academy of Pediatrics does not recommend juice for infants less than 12 months old. At 1, they have a recommendation of consuming no more than 4oz of 100% fruit juice a day. But, honestly, juice is not needed for any child. Eating real, whole fruit (in appropriate sizes for your child) is nutritionally better as they will get the whole benefit of the fruit, the fiber and all the nutrients that can get lost in the juicing process.
Avoid other sugar sweetened beverages. Any beverage other than milk and water should not be included in a little one’s diet. Sodas, energy drinks, coffee drinks, etc. are full of added sugars that our babies do not need.
Read food labels. Sugars come in all types of different names and often hid in sauces, yogurts, condiments and more. Here are some of the names of sugar to avoid in your packaged products: sucrose, barley malt, dextrose, high fructose corn syrup, maltose, rice syrup, barley malt syrup, brown sugar, cane sugar, organic cane sugar, cane juice, evaporated cane juice, caramel, coconut palm sugar, coconut sugar, corn syrup, corn syrup solids, dextrin, fructose, fruit juice, fruit juice concentrate, glucose, glucose solids, invert sugar, maltodextrin, maltol, mannose, maple syrup, molasses, and more! Check out this article with a list of 61 names of sugars!
Here's a food label and nutrition facts for a popular yogurt tube, marketed for kids to eat. My toddler can easily eat one yogurt tube-- look at how much added sugar this would be... 17g! This is just one example of how food items that we think are healthy or marketed for kids to eat would be way too much sugar for their little bodies!
Make homemade food when possible -sauces, muffins, & baked goods usually all contain added sugars. Making baked goods with fresh fruit (like bananas or applesauce) as a sweetener instead of the sugar will cut out that added sugar and provide nutrient dense food items. We have a couple recipes that are perfect for little hands. They both have some sweetener- agave or coconut sugar. You can easily leave these ingredients out and still have a yummy snack.
We have a couple recipes that are perfect for little hands. They both have some sweetener- agave or coconut sugar. You can easily leave these ingredients out and still have a yummy snack.
Zucchini Quinoa Bites
Banana Oat Muffins
Do you have a hard time avoiding added sugars for your little ones? Let us know where you may be struggling!
1. Added Sugar in Kids Diets: How Much is too Much? American Academy of Pediatrics. March 2019. https://www.aappublications.org/news/2019/03/25/sugarpp032519
2. Sugar in Infants, Children and Adolescents: A Position Paper of the European Society for Paediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition Committee on Nutrition. J Pediatr Gastroenterol Nutr. 2017 Dec;65(6):681-696. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28922262
3. AHA: Limit children's sugar consumption to 6 teaspoons per day. American Academy of Pediatrics. August 2016. https://www.aappublications.org/news/2016/08/23/Sugar082316?