Kids LOVE sugar. In fact, infants even have an innate preference for sweet-tasting things (1). They’re bound to like anything you give them if it’s sweet. However, sugar is exactly what you don’t want to be giving to your little one, especially if they are under the age of two.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children under two years of age consume no added sugar at all (2). Added sugars in your little one’s diet increases their risk of dental cavities, obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and other adverse health effects (1,2). That means no candy, no desserts, no chocolate milk, no sugary cereal, etc. Anything with added sugar (that’s not naturally found in the product) should be off limits. This also often includes many other "kid-friendly" items that aren’t as obvious like juices, applesauce, ketchup, yogurt, and even baby food!
If sugar is so bad for our children, why does baby and kid food have so much sugar in it? Well, it really all boils down to the fact that kids love sugar! Remember, kids are basically programmed to like sugar from birth on a biological level. Besides, the more our children love the food we feed them, the more they are going to want to eat that food (which means more money for the companies producing these sugary items.)
The good news is that there are more and more options today for actually kid-friendly, added sugar-free items that you can buy at the store for your little one. There are also lots of healthy swaps you can start implementing with your children at home.
Instead of sugary treats for dessert, try fruit! Try baking an apple with cinnamon on top, or make a homemade applesauce with vanilla and cinnamon for flavoring. Put real berries on plain yogurt instead of buying flavored ones. Make your own popsicles with Greek yogurt and fruit, or just fruit alone. The possibilities are endless, especially using foods that are already naturally sweet.
The sooner you can start implementing added sugar-free swaps with your little ones, the better. This way, you can help shape their taste preferences before they become set in their ways. You’ll be helping your kid learn how to make better choices for the rest of their life (3)!
1. Mis, N.F., Braegger, C., Bronsky, J., Campoy, C., Domellof, M., Embleton, N.D., Hojsak, I., Hulst, J., Indrio, F., Lapillonne, A., Mihatsch, W., Molgaard, C., Vora, R., Fewtrell, M., Sugar in Infants, Children and Adolescents: A Position Paper of the European Society for Paediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition Committee on Nutrition. Journal of Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition, 2017. 65(6):681-696.
2. Muth, N.D. American Academy of Pediatrics News: Sugary drink overload: AAP-AHA suggest excise tax to reduce consumption, 2019. https://www.aappublications.org/news/2019/03/25/sugar032519#:~:text=The%20AHA%20advises%20that%20children,children%20younger%20than%202%20years
3. “How Children Develop Unhealthy Food Preferences.” American Academy of Pediatrics. August 2020. https://www.healthychildren.org/English/healthy-living/nutrition/Pages/How-Children-Develop-Unhealthy-Food-Preferences.aspx