Everyone loves a bit of cake but there are plenty of good reasons why you should keep your baby’s sugar consumption on the low side. The sweet stuff is great as an occasional treat but not as part of baby’s daily menu.
Why is that? Well, we all know that sugar and healthy teeth really do not get along. But did you know that sugar in your baby’s diet can impact their immune system and even their gut health? Let’s have a look…
Don’t promote a sweet tooth
Your little one is learning about food and developing his or her taste, so offer a wide variety of foods and textures to increase food acceptance.
Babies have an innate preference for sweet foods which research shows can be reduced with a balanced diet, low in refined sugars and high in fresh, unprocessed foods. We also recommend that you introduce plenty of different veggies when weaning, not just the sweeter ones like sweet potatoes and butternut squash (although they are very nutritious and should be part of your baby’s diet!)
So, feeding sweet foods to your weaning baby or young child on a regular basis, even if it is natural sugar like dried fruit or juice, can promote a sweet tooth at a very early age!
High sugar = Low nutrients
Sugary foods are typically low in nutrients so they are not suitable for growing babies and small children who need a nutrient-dense diet to support growth and development.
For example, an orange is (naturally) sweet but also contains large amounts of immune boosting vitamin C, antioxidants and fibre. A sugary orange flavoured drink might contain some added vitamin C but also large amounts of sugar (or sweeteners), additives and preservatives.
Sugar lowers immunity
Sugar competes with vitamin C for transport into the cells so excess sugar can lower body functions that depend heavily on this vitamin, like immunity which in children under 2 years of age is still developing. And if that failed to convince you, researchers have found that sugar shuts down the immune system for up to a whopping 5 hours – that’s longer than the average amount of time a toddler spends at nursery so sugar for breakfast may just be opening the door to colds and tummy bugs!
Sugar and tummy trouble
Sugar can feed yeast and bad bacteria in the gut causing bloating and wind, which can make babies very uncomfortable. Sugar when consumed regularly can lead to fermentation in the gut which again can cause bloating and painful gas.
Look after those little milk teeth
Tooth decay has been unequivocally linked to sugar consumption. No surprises there but research also shows that children who have cavities early on are more likely to have them later in life.
Sugary foods tend to be empty calories. Cakes, cookies and sugary drinks particularly contribute to weight gain in children as meals low on fibre and protein do not keep them full for too long and they quickly demand another cookie!
Sugar and those dreaded tantrums
Kids will have tantrums even if you don’t feed them any sugar and research is inconclusive as to whether sweets affect children’s behaviour negatively. However, when sugar and refined carbohydrates (sugary cereal, white bread, sweets) are a fundamental part of the diet, blood sugar fluctuations may be more marked and when sugar is low the brain is starved of energy which can affect mood … and not just in children!
Sugar increases the risk of Diabetes type 2 diabetes even at this early age!
Sugar, especially if not consumed with a meal containing protein, fibre and fat, is absorbed very quickly in the intestine which leads to a sharp increase in blood sugar levels. Large amounts of insulin are then needed to take that sugar into the cells to make energy for your baby to play, learn and be active! When the high sugar/high insulin cycle becomes regular, it can increase the risk of type 2 diabetes.
So, what is our advice on sugar?
1) Avoid refined sugar (cakes, cookies, sweets, chocolate) for at least the first 12 months and when you introduce it, do so in moderation, as a treat, and always as part of a well-balanced meal.
2) When offering fruit as a snack, make sure there is some protein and good fats to balance the impact of the fruit sugar on your baby: add a piece of cheese, mix in with yogurt, sip apple slices on smooth nut butter, etc
3) Dried fruit is very high in sugar and although it offers good amounts of fibre it can contain additives like sulphur dioxide.
4) When making early weaning purées, go easy on the fruit and try lots of different veggies, baby’s sweet tooth can wait!
5) Check baby ready-to-eat meals as some can be quite sweet even if the sweetness comes from dried fruit, natural fruit or tomatoes.
6) Make sure you read labels, especially when buying bread, yogurt, sauces and soups as they may contain more sugar that you think!
7) When baking, switch to wholemeal or nut flours, use plenty of eggs and even sneak in a vegetable or fruit in your cake!
8) We have developed plenty of sugar-free and well balanced treat and snack recipes for Béaba UK. Check out all the recipes on our Recipes Page
Written by Purple Carrot Nutrition: https://purplecarrotnutrition.co.uk/