Yum Yum! Sugar! We all love it. Particularly in chocolate if I’m anything to go by. And babies in particular adore sugary tastes. They are born that way. So why not give in to them?
The problem is that if you introduce sugar at this very early stage then they are much more likely to prefer sweet foods as they grow up and throughout their life. Unfortunately, foods which are high in sugar (particularly when given in childhood) can lead to problems such as obesity, high blood pressure and heart disease.
Although you may think that a little sugar doesn’t hurt (and you will have to watch sneaky Grandparents on this point!), introducing sweets before the age of 2 can lead your little one to develop a strong desire for sugary tastes.
If sweet drinks and foods are readily available to your little ones, they will prefer eating those and there won’t be any room (or desire) left for the nutritious food which you would prefer them to eat. If, however, you offer your baby a variety of healthy foods however, some of which are naturally sweet, this will help them to develop a taste preference for healthy choices.
And, until they’ve had the sweetened foods and drinks, babies and toddlers simply don’t know what they’re missing! Blueberries and raisins can become their sweets of choice. If your child has already had sweets, it’s not a lost cause, but try to reduce their intake as much as possible.
Simple Healthy Food Swaps
With pre-packaged foods it can be very tricky to find foods that aren’t made with added sugar. Even foods which you imagine to be healthy, such as cereals can have an awful lot of added sugar. Here are some swaps that you can make to reduce your little one’s sugar intake.
- Swap sugary drinks for water or plain milk (my youngest is a milk-acholic!)
- Swap juice* for soft fruits, such as bananas, ripe peaches and drained canned fruit (packed in water or 100% juice, not syrup)
- Swap packaged fruit snacks for freeze-dried fruit with no added ingredients
- Swap ice cream for whole-milk yogurt with fruit
- Swap sugary cereal for plain toasted oats and dried fruits
- Swap cookies or a toddler protein bar for a whole-wheat mini bagel with cream cheese (for toddlers)
- Swap packaged toddler meals (which are surprisingly loaded with added sugar) for whole-wheat pasta with a hidden vegetable sauce + meat or cheese
*even though 100% fruit juice doesn’t technically have any added sugar, it still has as much natural sugar as soda has added, and it lacks the dietary fibre found in whole fruit. Juice is not recommended before the age of 1 as it can lead to:-
- Poor nutrition
- Increased risk of tooth decay
- Increased risk of diarrhea, gas and bloating
Healthier Meal Ideas
The following simple suggestions are suitable for both traditional weaning and baby lead weaning, and you can find a variety of different recipes for children here.
- Fresh Fruit
- Home made porridge
- Live full fat natural yoghurt
- Scrambled egg
- French toast
- Banana muffins
- Sugar free granola
- Blueberry pancakes
- Home made baked beans
- Soft cooked vegetables, such as carrot sticks, broccoli, cauliflower, parsnip, butternut squash
- Fruit (soft, or cooked without adding sugar), such as apple, pear, peach, melon, banana, avocado
- Cooked starchy foods; potato, sweet potato, pasta, noodles, chapatti, rice
- Pulses, e.g. beans and lentils
- Hardboiled eggs
- Fish & Meat without bones, such as chicken and lamb
- Sticks of cheese (choose lower salt option)
- Toast, pitta or chapatti fingers
- Unsalted and unsweetened rice or corn
- Pasteurised plain full-fat yoghurt with fruit puree
In need of more inspiration? Take a look at some of these easy, tasty recipes below.
Photo Credit: myfussyeater.com
Photo Credit: healthylittlefoodies.com
Photo Credit: younggums.com
Photo Credit: friendlyfirstfoods