Minimize added sugars in your child’s diet
It’s true. Your baby or toddler was born with a sweet tooth! Children this age naturally prefer sweet tasting foods, including breastmilk. Did you know that babyhood and toddlerhood are critical periods in shaping and influencing your child’s eating habits and taste preferences?
Upon introducing solids, it’s important to offer a wide variety of textures and flavors. When it comes to food choices, quality matters most! After all, they have tiny tummies that can only hold so much at one time. Because of this, it’s especially important to offer foods that are rich in nutrients, without any undesirable extras, like added sugar or salt.
Some foods naturally contain sugar, such as fruit, some vegetables and dairy products. Added sugar can be in obvious sources like desserts and sugary beverages. But added sugar can also sneak into less obvious sources including flavored yogurts, breakfast foods like cereals and waffles, and even condiments like spaghetti sauce and ketchup. While we want to include good-for-you sources of natural sugars (think fruits, vegetables and yogurts with no added sugar) in our baby or toddler’s diet, we do want to keep out the not so good-for you added sugars.
Keeping the added sugars in your child’s diet to a minimum is important in helping reduce the risk of various health conditions. Unhealthy weight gain, tooth decay, and attention/behavioral issues have all been associated with excessive intake of added sugars. Because research shows diets with fewer added sugars are better for our health, there are new laws governing the inclusion of these on our food labels. Moving forward, the government will be requiring food manufacturers to include the amount (in grams) of added sugars on the Nutrition Facts Panel. This will give us a much better idea of what is actually in our foods, in terms of naturally occurring versus added sugar. Here are some other ways to limit your child’s intake of added sugars:
- Offer mostly whole foods. Serving foods in their natural state, such as fruits and veggies, allows you to know exactly what you are feeding your baby or tot. Processed foods like crackers and other packaged goods can be not- so- obvious harbors for added sugars, check labels and offer no added sugar versions.
- Be mindful of “kid-friendly” foods. Specific foods aimed towards kids, like yogurts and cereal bars, can still contain too much added sugar. Look for and choose products that don’t include any of these sugars.
- Be a food label decoder. In addition to seeing the word “sugar” on food labels and ingredients lists, other words can indicate the presence of a sugar that is not naturally occurring in the product. Examples of these include: honey, agave, fructose, dextrose, corn syrup, and molasses. Becoming familiar with the many names of sugar will help you better understand what is in specific products.
- Meal plan. Preparing meals at home gives you more control over what goes into the foods you make for you and your family.
- Avoid sugary drinks. Avoid offering your baby or toddler beverages that are high in sugar like fruit beverages, sodas and iced teas. Even though 100% fruit juices do not contain any added sugar, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no fruit juices for infants younger than 12 months. For toddlers 1- 3 years of age the intake for fruit juice should be limited to, at most, 4 ounces/day.
Limiting your child’s exposure to added sugars will help contribute to a healthy start!
Weighing in on fruit juice: AAP now says no juice before age 1, AAP News & Journals Reducing Childhood Obesity by Eliminating 100% Fruit Juice, National Institutes of Health Fruit Juice in Infants, Children, and Adolescents: Current Recommendations, AAP News & Journals Key Elements of Healthy Eating Patterns, Health.gov Shifts Needed To Align With Healthy Eating Patterns, Health.gov