Sugar is a hot topic – and when it comes to weaning, it’s a very important one. Childhood obesity is at an all time high with 1-in-10 children in the UK, now diagnosed as overweight.
So with all the talk about sugar that has been in the media; should you be giving your little one sugary foods?
Sugar has no nutritional value apart from calories which provide the body with energy. You can obtain energy from better sources though, such as healthy fats, (eg. omega oils in fish) or complex carbohydrates (such as starch from potatoes).
Often foods that are higher in sugar are less nutritious and can fill up small tummies – so there isn’t room for other foods that contain more vitamins and minerals. It’s vital that little ones gain maximum nutrition from every tiny mouthful, during the weaning process.
“It’s vital that little ones gain maximum nutrition from every tiny mouthful.”
Sugar is not good for trying to install healthy eating habits – once sugary foods are enjoyed, all other foods taste sour in comparison so are likely to be rejected, leading to fussy eating.
Too many sweet foods at the start of weaning can lead to your little one refusing bitter flavours, such as green vegetables. Starting with savoury meals and a vegetable first approach can help build healthy eating habits.
Sugar is also not good for dental health; Almost a quarter of 5 year old children have been found to show signs of tooth decay and one of the biggest factors affecting this is the sugar in their diet.
There is no official limit on how much sugar is too much for babies and toddler under 4 years old but it is recommended in the UK that food and drinks containing sugar are avoided entirely.
“Starting with savoury meals and a vegetable first approach can help build healthy eating habits.”
Sugars are divided into what are called ‘free sugars’ and ‘natural sugars’.
Free sugars as ones that are added into a food or drink eg. to biscuits, cakes, flavoured yoghurts, some breakfast cereals and cereal bars. The sugars in fruit juice, smoothies and honey, agave, syrups and sweet nectars are also counted as free sugars.
These are the sugars to avoid giving your little one as much as possible.
Natural sugars are those found in fruit, vegetables, milk, plain yoghurt, grains, pasta, rice, oats and flour. These are safe for your little one and can be included as part of a balanced diet.
“Natural sugars are those found in fruit, vegetables, milk, plain yoghurt, grains, pasta, rice, oats and flour.”
Ideally, aim to keep your little one to as low a sugar intake as you can.
There will always be times when there is an exception; maybe cake at a party or someone else gives them a biscuit. Take a tasty alternative with you to have ready to offer but do not panic if your little one has the odd bit of sugar – it’s what happens most of the time that counts as eating habits are often formed at a very young age.
“Sugars are divided into what are called ‘free sugars’ and ‘natural sugars.”
If you aren’t sure if a food is suitable, then do check the food label. The “of which sugars” value is a total of both natural sugars and free sugars.
This means that a fruit puree will look very high in sugar but those are natural sugars. So, you also need to check the ingredients list. Look for any added sugars, such as glucose, syrup, honey and of course sugar itself. You can compare products for sugar content by looking at the per 100g values, go for the lower sugar options.
“A fruit puree will look very high in sugar but those are natural sugars.”
The For Aisha range of products do not have added sugars in them so you can rest assured that these are a great choice for your baby. The entire range is also Sugarwise approved!
-Written by For Aisha dietitian Priya Tew.
For Aisha dietitian Priya Tew.