‘Added sugars’ has become a household phrase these days, and its even on the new nutrition label. The term ‘added sugar’ refers to sugars added to the product that aren’t naturally occurring; for example, yogurt has both added sugars (from fruit juice, fruit or other flavorings) and the sugar that is found naturally in milk (called lactose). Basically, ‘added sugars’ are those we consume in addition to the sugars found in milk, cheese, grains, fruits and vegetables. It’s recommended that added sugars make up less than 10% of our overall energy intake per day for those aged 2-19, and that those under 2 years of age consume none.
A recent study published in the January 2020 issue of the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics revealed that infants and toddlers do consume added sugars, and intake varies by age and race. The study included approximately 1200 infants (0-11 months) and toddlers (12-23 months) from 2011-2016. For infants, breast milk intake was approximated based on age.
Currently, about 70% of Americans consume more added sugars per day than recommended, which is 9 teaspoons for men and 6 teaspoons for women. Added sugars are associated with increased cavities, asthma, obesity and high blood pressure. Approximately 4 grams of sugar is equal to a teaspoon, which means that a sweetened beverage or yogurt with 20 grams of added sugars contains 5 teaspoons of added sugar, just about the recommended amount per day for a woman.
The results of the study showed that 84% of infants and toddlers consumed added sugars in a given day. Approximate daily intake varied by race, with non-Hispanic black toddlers consuming 8.2 tsp, Hispanic 5.9, white 5.3 tsp and Asians 3.7 tsp. Infants consumed approximately 1 tsp per day. Top sources of added sugars for children include yogurt, sweet bakery items, fruit drinks and sweets.
Bottom Line: Kids have the rest of their lives to eat sweets—keep the added sugar in youngsters to the absolute minimum. Babies are born with a preference for things that are sweet, which is why breast milk is so appealing. However, it’s also why your kid tends to eat fruit eagerly but picks at their broccoli. With few exceptions—an occasional trip to the Caboose for ice cream, handfuls of cake on their first birthday—added sugar shouldn’t be part of infants and young toddlers’ main meals on the regular. Unfortunately, added sugar is lurking everywhere, from yogurt to the jelly in a sandwich. Purchase ‘no added sugar’ applesauce cups, make your own watered-down juice freezie pops this summer and top your kids’ pancakes with nut butter and fruit instead of syrup.
Herrick, K., Fryar, C., Hamner, H., Park, S., Ogden, C. (2019). Added Sugar Intake among US Infants and Toddlers. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, 120(1), 23-32.
Holly R. Layer is a Registered Dietitian and a freelance writer. She teaches fitness classes at the Southtowns YMCA and leads nutrition tours at the East Aurora Cooperative Market. She lives in the village with her husband, Andrew, an East Aurora native. She blogs at www.thehealthypineapple.com. Questions can be emailed to Holly at firstname.lastname@example.org.