Researchers looked at the data on 1,211 children aged between 6 and 23 months old taken from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey between 2011 and 2016 and published the results of their study in the journal Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
What they found was that nearly two-thirds of babies and 98 percent of toddlers eat foods that contain added sugar every day. Among the top sources of sugar for infants and toddlers are snacks like yogurt, baby snacks, and fruit juice.
First, they looked at 6- and 11-month old babies and found that yogurt, baby snacks and sweets, sweet bakery products, dairy drinks including flavored products, and fruit juices were the biggest sources of added sugar.
For kids aged 12 to 23 months, fruit drinks accounted for most of the added sugar in their diet. Sweet bakery products, sugar and candy, yogurt, and sweetened beverages followed.
It’s More Than You Think
What is most shocking to consider is the fact that babies were found to eat the equivalent of around one teaspoon of added sugar each day, which is around 2 percent of their daily caloric intake. In toddlers, this went up to six teaspoons or 8 percent of their recommended intake.
When the researchers looked at demographics, they found that non-Hispanic Asian toddlers ate the least sugar, at 3.7 teaspoons, while non-Hispanic black toddlers ate the most at 8.2 teaspoons.
They did discover something positive, however: the number of children eating added sugars as well as the amount they consumed fell between 2005 and 2016.
Co-author Kirsten A. Herrick of the Division of Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics, said he findings have “important public health implications since previous research has shown that eating patterns established early in life shape later eating patterns.”
Herrick also made the observation that research illustrates that children who drank sugar-sweetened beverages before the age of one were more than twice as likely to consume such drinks once a day by the age of 6. In comparison, kids who didn’t try sugar-sweetened drinks before the age of 1, were far less likely.
It has also been observed that children over the age of 2 who eat sugar are more likely to have cavities, asthma, obesity, high blood pressure, and cholesterol and fats in the blood, Herrick said.
Herrick told parents: “The transition from a milk-based diet (breast milk and formula) to table foods has an impact on nutrition, taste preference, and eating patterns. More work is needed to understand this critical period.”
The Rainbow Plate Diet
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises parents to “make a rainbow” on their child’s plate. What they mean by this is to feed them every part of the food period – fruits, vegetables, whole grains, meats, yogurt, and cheeses.
Foods like candy, cakes, cookies, and ice cream with all the added sugars as well as extremely salty foods such as processed meat, frozen dinners, and canned food should be avoided.
Herrick told Newsweek: “Added sugars are everywhere in our food environment. Simply paying attention to where we might be getting added sugars in our diet is a great habit to get into. Readers can use the Nutrition Facts label as a place to start.
“While the inclusion of the added sugars content of foods and beverages isn’t mandatory on the Nutrition Fact Label until January 2020, many labels already include this information. The CDC has a great website with information on infant and toddler nutrition. It includes helpful information about what, when, and how to feed this group.”
Herrick concluded: “The main message is that infants and toddlers don’t need added sugars. The goal is to make sure this group is getting all of the vitamins and minerals they need for healthy growth and development, without excess calories.
“Parents should offer a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables, or choose packaged versions without added sugars. Water is also an ideal beverage to offer as it doesn’t contain any added sugars.”