Babies, Toddlers & Added Sugars

As we talked about in last week’s blog, the 2020 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee warns that Americans are consuming too much added sugar. The Committee’s new Scientific Report recommends that children under age two consume no added sugars at all.

Let’s take a closer look at the under 2 age group. Consider these points from the Scientific Report:

  • Intake of added sugars increases significantly between 12 and 24 months of age. (The trend continues through the preschool years, peaking during adolescence and young adulthood.)
  • Toddlers age 12 to 24 months consume about six teaspoons of added sugars per day. That’s almost 10 percent of their recommended daily calories.
  • The main sources of added sugar are sweetened beverages (27 percent), sweet bakery products (15 percent), yogurt (7 percent), ready-to-eat cereals (6 percent), candy (6 percent), and other desserts (5 percent).

Once a baby turns one year old, they’re pretty much transitioning to the standard American diet. In fact, the Committee writes that “during this time between infancy and toddlerhood, large increases in added sugars and solid and saturated fats are observed.”

We need to get the no-sugar message to parents, grandparents, child care providers, and other caregivers. Important conversations to have:

  1. There’s no room in young children’s diets for sugary drinks and sweets. Those empty calories start a sugar habit that will last a lifetime.
  2. Check the Nutrition Facts label for every food and drink you buy. The amount of added sugars is listed on the label.
  3. As adults, your intake of added sugars should be limited as well. This helps you stay healthy while limiting your children’s exposure to high sugar foods.

Remember, the 2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans won’t be published until later this year. The recently released Scientific Report has been submitted to the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. These agencies will review the report and develop the next version of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

Feeding Baby Safely

One of our Food and Health Communications team members is expecting her first baby in the next few months, and we all have babies on the brain! Mom’s milk or formula will be the mainstay of baby’s diet for the first several months, but by four to six months, the baby’s energy needs may increase and solid foods may be recommended.

Don’t rush to add solid foods! Until this age, babies usually don’t have the control over their tongue and mouth muscles to enable them to safely eat solid foods.

Here are a few key points for keeping baby’s food safe:

  • Never give babies dairy products made from raw or unpasteurized milk, as they may contain bacteria that could cause serious illness.
  • Do not give honey to babies who are under a year old. This can put the baby at risk for botulism. This includes baked goods or other foods that contain honey,
  • Don’t give babies raw or partially-cooked eggs. This includes soft-cooked eggs or poached eggs with “runny” yolks. The yolks and whites should be firm. Serve only the yolks to babies less than one year old, because egg whites may cause an allergic reaction.
  • Don’t serve babies mixed-ingredient foods until they’ve had all the individual ingredients separately. This will help you to makes sure that they are not allergic to the individual foods. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, it doesn’t matter what solid foods are offered first. Many doctors recommend cereals first and often suggest rice cereal because it is not likely to cause food allergies.
  • Don’t give babies unpasteurized fruit juices.
  • If heating baby food or milk in the microwave, make sure to stir it to ensure that there are no “hot spots” within the food so that you don’t burn the baby.

And here are a couple other basic thoughts on feeding baby:

  • Do not allow food or formula to stay at room temperature for more than two hours. This is enough time for any bacteria that may be in that food to multiply to unhealthy levels.  Start off with small amounts of solid foods and throw away any uneaten food from the baby’s dish — don’t save it for another meal.
  • Remember, a baby’s immune system has not developed and they are more at risk for foodborne illness than older children or healthy adults.

By Cheryle Jones Syracuse, MS, Professor Emeritus at The Ohio State University

Here are some other wonderful resources for feeding babies, kids, and families…

And here are a few more great options for Nutrition Month!