Health messages to reduce the amount of added sugars we consume are nothing new, and the amount of added sugar is now listed on most food labels. However, the recently released recommendations from the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines Scientific Advisory Committee are the first time that added sugars are addressed for infants and toddlers younger than two years old. The recommendation is simple: no added sugars from any source.
Why is nutrition so important for infants and toddlers?
The first 24 months of life are a critical period for growth and brain development, which means that nutrition needs are higher than at any other time period. The timing and type of complementary foods influences nutritional status, growth and body composition, neurocognitive development, and various health outcomes, both short-term and long term, including overweight or obesity, cardiovascular disease risk factors such as blood pressure and cholesterol levels, bone health, risk of food allergies, and atopic diseases. After age six months, complementary foods are needed to ensure adequate nutrition and growth, and to expose infants to varied flavors, textures, and types of foods as they make the transition to family diets. Avoiding added sugars for infants and toddlers younger than age two years is important for several reasons:
1. When infants and children fill up on foods with added sugar, they don’t eat enough nutrient-dense foods that are crucial for growth and development.
2. There is some evidence that consuming added sugars early in life can lead to increased risk of overweight and obesity.
3. Consuming added sugars when young sets up a lifetime preference for sweet foods which has implications for cardiovascular disease, some types of cancer, overweight and obesity.
Food patterns and preferences are established early in life:
Research shows that the types of foods that toddlers eat greatly influences their food patterns and choices in later childhood as well as when they are adults.
One study showed that the odds of consuming sugar sweetened beverages at least once per day was 2.2 times higher among 6-year-olds who had consumed any sugar sweetened beverages before age 1 year, compared with 6-year-olds who had never consumed sugar sweetened beverages before age 1 year. If we want to encourage toddlers to grow up enjoying a healthy diet that is low in added sugars, we need to start when they are young.
What are added sugars?
According to the Centers for Disease Control, added sugars are sugars and syrups that are added to foods or beverages when they are processed or prepared. Naturally occurring sugars such as those in fruit or milk are not added sugars. Examples of added sugars commonly found on food labels include brown sugar, corn sweetener, corn syrup, dextrose, fructose, glucose, high-fructose corn syrup, honey, lactose, malt syrup, maltose, molasses, raw sugar, and sucrose. Added sugars contain little to no essential vitamins or minerals, and are a source of additional calories.
How many added sugars do infants and toddlers consume?
A study published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics in 2019 showed that 84.4% of infants and toddlers consumed added sugars on any given day. A greater proportion of toddlers (98.3%) consumed added sugars than infants (60.6%) based on a nationally representative sample of infants and children up to age 2 years during the period from 2011 through 2016 from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.
What infant and toddler foods contain added sugar?
According to the research, top sources of added sugars for infants were yogurt, baby food snacks/sweets, and sweet bakery products like cookies or cakes; top sources among toddlers were fruit drinks, sugars/sweets like candy, and sweet bakery products.
Our suggestions: A healthy diet with optimum amounts of vitamins, minerals, fiber, healthy types of fats and proteins is crucial for infants and toddlers younger than age two to support growth and development. Use these tips to give your young children the healthiest diet and a head start for lifelong good nutrition:
• Instead of sweetened drinks like lemonade or fruit drinks, offer milk or plain water.
• Try fresh fruit or fruit canned without added sugar for desserts.
• Add unsweetened applesauce or mashed banana to plain yogurt instead of purchasing sweetened yogurt.
• Babies don’t need sweets and snacks commonly marketed to infants. Instead of these sweet foods, offer your baby more baby food vegetables and fruits without added sugar.
Article Source: Communicating Food For Health Newsletter, November 2020
Extension Office Notes:
• The pickup day for 4-H Cooking Kits is Thursday, November 19, from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m. at the Extension office. The December kits will be ready for pickup on December 10 and the last day to register for a December kit is December 4.
• The Golden Clover Buds 4-H Club will meet on Thursday, November 19, at 4 p.m.
• The Looped with Love Crochet Club will meet on Thursday, November 19th at 10 a.m. Membership dues of $10 will be due this month.
• The new Water Valley Ground Breakers 4-H Club will meet on Saturday, November 21st at 10 a.m.
• The Extension Office will be closed for Thanksgiving Holidays Wednesday, November 25, beginning at 1 p.m. We will reopen for business on November 30 at 8 a.m.