While we all know chocolates, cookies, and sweets contain sugar, added sugar can also sneak into less obvious foods and condiments.
It’s a fact: Young children naturally prefer sweet-tasting foods, including breast milk. But did you know that babyhood and toddlerhood are critical periods in shaping and influencing your child’s eating habits and taste preferences?
When starting solids, it’s important to offer a wide variety of textures and flavours. When it comes to food choices, quality matters most. Children 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.
Keep an eye out for sugar baddies
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 flavoured 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.
Why too much sugar is bad for your child’s health
Keeping the added sugars in your child’s diet to a minimum is important to help reduce the risk of various health conditions. Unhealthy weight gain, tooth decay, and attention/behavioural 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 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.
Ways to limit your child’s intake of added sugars
- Choose natural foods: Serving foods in their natural states, 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 harbours for added sugars. Check labels and offer no added sugar versions.
- Quick “kids treats” are often full of sugar: 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.
- Read the fine print: 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.
- Plan ahead: Preparing meals at home gives you more control over what goes into the foods you make for you and your family.
- Ditch 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, no fruit juice is recommended for infants younger than 12 months. For toddlers 1- 3 years of age, the intake of fruit juice should be limited.