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Easter PhinD: Should I Give My Baby Sweets?

Updated: Jul 3, 2021

Humans are hardwired to enjoy fatty and sweet tastes because they are efficient sources of energy, which was hard to come by back in the day (think cavemen). Now, however, things are different. Sugars abound, and you may be tempted to watch your baby's face light up while they chow down on an Easter treat. But should you give your baby sweets? Short answer: try to resist!


While a quick source of carbohydrate energy, refined sugar contains no other nutrients. This could lead to tots filling up on sugary treats ending up with poor nutrient supply and reduced dietary diversity (Fidler et al., 2017). Introducing sugars early also leads to an increased preference for sweets, which is one of the important factors determining obesity in children and adults (Sobek et al., 2020). The current guidelines recommend waiting until baby is two years old before introducing foods with added sugar (Dietary Guidelines for Americans).


What about sugar in fruit? Notice that I called out "refined sugar" above. That's because natural sugar in fruit is tempered by other components (particularly fiber) which slow down how your body processes the sugar (Choo et al., 2018). So forgo the Peeps and give your baby a banana instead!

Sources:

  • Fidler Mis N, Braegger C, Bronsky J, Campoy C, Domellöf M, Embleton ND, Hojsak I, Hulst J, Indrio F, Lapillonne A, Mihatsch W, Molgaard C, Vora R, Fewtrell M; ESPGHAN Committee on Nutrition:. Sugar in Infants, Children and Adolescents: A Position Paper of the European Society for Paediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition Committee on Nutrition. J Pediatr Gastroenterol Nutr. 2017 Dec;65(6):681-696.

  • Sobek G, Łuszczki E, Dąbrowski M, Dereń K, Baran J, Weres A, Mazur A. Preferences for Sweet and Fatty Taste in Children and Their Mothers in Association with Weight Status. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2020 Jan 15;17(2):538.

  • U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020-2025. 9th Edition. December 2020.

  • Choo VL, Viguiliouk E, Blanco Mejia S, Cozma AI, Khan TA, Ha V, Wolever TMS, Leiter LA, Vuksan V, Kendall CWC, de Souza RJ, Jenkins DJA, Sievenpiper JL. Food sources of fructose-containing sugars and glycaemic control: systematic review and meta-analysis of controlled intervention studies. BMJ. 2018 Nov 21;363:k4644.

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Jaclyn Lyons
Jaclyn Lyons
Mar 27, 2021

What about honey? If a recipe (such as homemade fruit leather) calls for sugar, can you replace it with honey? Or should you try to avoid honey as well?

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Momma, PhD
Momma, PhD
Mar 27, 2021
Replying to

Great question, Jaclyn!


I found the following definition of "free sugars" in the first source, Fidler et al., 2017:

"The term 'free sugars,' includes all monosaccharides/disaccharides added to foods/beverages by the manufacturer/cook/consumer, plus sugars naturally present in honey/syrups/unsweetened fruit juices and fruit juice concentrates. Sugar naturally present in intact fruits and lactose in amounts naturally present in human milk or infant formula, cow/goat milk, and unsweetened milk products is not free sugar. Intake of free sugars should be reduced and minimised with a desirable goal of <5% energy intake in children."


Honey is therefore considered a source of "free sugar". But if the amount in your recipe is less that 5% of baby's daily calories, that falls within the desirable…


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