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Cake-smeared faces and fingers filled with icing are what a baby’s first birthday is all about and although it used to be their first taste of sugar, the reality is that a significant amount of babies are actually consuming a ton of added sugars every day— something that has prompted the 2020 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee to address in their Scientific Report, which was released last week.
The report, which will inform the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, includes guidance about life stages such as pregnancy and the first-ever proposed plan for babies and toddlers.
While the report addresses areas such as the importance of breastfeeding, eating fruits and vegetables, and other plant-based foods, the key takeaway is that children under age 2 should avoid added sugars.
Related: What Are Added Sugars?
WHAT THE NEW DIETARY GUIDELINES SUGGEST
According to the report, added sugars represent 13 percent of Americans’ daily energy intake, which means most people eat more than the current Dietary Guidelines recommend, and babies and toddlers are no different.
In fact, according to a 2018 study, just over 60% of babies between 6 and 11-months-old consume added sugars on any given day, averaging just under 1 teaspoon.
Among babies between 12- and 18-months old, 98% consume on average 5.5 teaspoons of added sugar, and among those 19 to 23-months old, 99% consume just over 7 teaspoons of added sugar on a given day.
As a result, the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee has proposed that for babies and toddlers under 2, added sugars, including those from sugar-sweetened beverages, should be avoided.
“Nutritional exposures during the first 1,000 days of life not only contribute to long-term health but also help shape taste preferences and food choices,” the report states.
The Advisory Committee’s advice will be sent to the Secretaries of Agriculture and of Health and Human Services as the USDA and HHS develop the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which are designed to help Americans make healthy food choices, improve or maintain their health, and reduce the risk for chronic diseases.
WHICH BABY AND TODDLER FOODS HAVE ADDED SUGARS?
According to the scientific report, nearly 70 percent of added sugars fall into 5 food categories:
1. Sweetened beverages
2. Desserts and sweet snacks
3. Coffee and tea
4. Candy and sugars
5. Breakfast cereals and bars
Additionally, they list the various sources of added sugars.
Infants between 6- and 12-months-old consume added sugars from:
- Snacks and sweets (23%)
- Milk and dairy (20%)
- Baby food (19%)
- Beverages, other than 100% juice or fluid milk (13%)
- Grains (11%)
- Fruit (8%)
- Mixed dishes (3%)
Toddlers between 12- to 24-months-old consume added sugars from:
- Sweetened beverages (27%)
- Sweet bakery products (15%)
- Yogurt (7%)
- Ready-to-eat cereals (6%)
- Candy (6%)
- Other desserts (5%)
When it comes to finding added sugars, they’re sneaky.
Not only do they show up in kid-friendly foods, but they can hide under at least 61 different names, be marketed as “natural,” or found in foods that aren’t even sweet. Think: cereals, instant oatmeal, dips, sauces, dressings, frozen foods, dried fruit, and yogurt.
Related: How to Choose a Healthy Kids’ Yogurt
According to the report, foods with added sugars are likely to displace calories from nutrient-dense foods like fruits and vegetables, and can increase the risk for nutritional deficiencies.
Also, consuming sugar-sweetened beverages is linked to an increased risk of weight gain and childhood obesity, as well as chronic health conditions that start early in life such as type-2 diabetes, high-blood pressure, heart disease and stroke, metabolic syndrome, fatty liver disease, certain types of cancer, and of course, cavities.
“Because the risk of chronic disease begins early in life, taking steps to apply the best understanding of healthy dietary intakes in the earliest days of life can support lifelong chronic disease risk reduction and improved quality of life,” the report states.
Since food preferences and patterns start to develop during these early years and research shows taste and flavor preferences seem to be more easily influenced than they do for older children, parents and caregivers should limit added sugars and instead focus on nutrient-dense foods, the report states.
WHAT DO THE NEW DIETARY GUIDELINES SAY ABOUT JUICE FOR KIDS?
The 2020 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee’s scientific report also covers fruit juice, and found that 40% of infants between 6- and 12-months-old drink juice.
While there are both 100% fruit juices and those with added sugars, either way you cut it, juice is high in sugar.
In September 2019, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), the American Heart Association, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry issued first-ever consensus healthy kids’ drink guidelines which state infants under 12 months should avoid juice.
While children 12- to 24-months-old can be introduced to 100% fruit juice, the guidelines state it should be limited to no more than 4 ounces a day.
THE BOTTOM LINE ON THE NEW DIETARY GUIDELINES FOR BABIES AND TODDLERS
The new Nutrition Facts label, which will continue to be rolled out into 2021, will make spotting added sugars easier.
However, a good rule of thumb, not only to avoid added sugars, but to set your child up for a lifetime of healthy eating, is to eat real, whole foods.
WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT THE NEW DIETARY GUIDELINES FOR BABIES AND TODDLERS? LET ME KNOW IN THE COMMENTS.