Children younger than 2 years should not have any sugar added to their food or drinks. Unfortunately, most milk products and fruit juices contain lots of sugar.
Not all sugar is the same
There are many types of sugar. Sucrose, glucose, fructose and lactose, for example, are all found naturally in fruits, vegetables, dairy products, and grains. And there is no need to avoid sugars that are naturally inside whole foods, as these foods also contain nutrients, fiber and water, which counter any of their negative effects. If however, sugars such as sucrose or fructose, are added to fruit juices or other processed food, they have negative side effects on your child’s health and wellbeing.
Do children need sugar?
Proper nutrition is important for the child’s growth, requiring an adequate amount of starch, carbohydrates as well as sugars to support rapid growth and physical activity in the early years. Health experts, however, recommend that young children do not consume sucrose sugar because sugar is natural to children’s cravings and has negative side effects.
Effects of too much sugar
In milk, yogurts, and fruit juices, sucrose, and any other types of added sugar are often found. The consumption of too much sucrose can lead to weight problems, hyperactivity, and increased preference for sweetened products. In the long run, too many sugary foods can cause severe problems such as:
- Tooth decay with improper oral care.
- Risk of obesity, which can lead to type 2 diabetes and heart problems
- Behaviour problems such as frequent tantrums and persistent pestering
- Cravings for sweets
How to cut down child sugar intake
It may seem impossible to completely drop added sugar, but choosing healthier alternatives such as banana, honey or brown sugar isn’t as difficult as it may seem.
Good alternatives to sweet drinks
There is usually a lot of unhealthy sugar in soft drinks, fruit juices, and baby milk. It’s therefore better to offer your child mother milk and plain water. You can also offer diluted fruit juice (1 part juice to 10 parts water) served with meals, serving it with a meal helps to reduce the risk of tooth decay.
Dr. Wanwadee Sapmee Panyakat, MD. (30 June 2020)