According to recent studies, many commercial baby foods aren’t as healthy as we are led to believe. In fact, many of them contain harmful ingredients for babies, such as sugar and salt, which is not something your baby’s palate and body needs. We all know how difficult it is to feed a 6-month-old; stage-1 of baby food contains a variety of solid foods. A lot of parents find themselves trying very hard to get their baby to eat the right amount of right food. Sugar in baby food only gives empty calories and nothing else!
As per a 2014 study, the tastes that infants are repeatedly exposed to at an early age have long-lasting effects on their liking of specific tastes. Basically, it means that exposing your baby to sweet-tasting foods at stage-1 of baby food can make them prefer sweet taste over other natural tastes present in foods. This can have an adverse effect on their future food preferences and end up affecting their health.
Scientists investigated the effects of exposing infants to water containing sugar early in life to find that infants who were repeatedly fed sugar water at 3 months of age showed increased acceptance of sugar water than of plain water at 2 years of age as compared to those kids who had never tasted sugar water.
A similar study showed that kids who were exposed to more sugar and salt between the age of 6 months and 2 years preferred more such sweet flavored drinks and salty foods than plain foods and natural juices/water. In today’s times, given the hyperactive advertising by food companies and widespread prevalence of convenience foods, it is really difficult for parents to limit their kids’ sugar intake.
Here is a classic example of hidden sugars in baby foods.
In 2007, there was a lawsuit against a well-known food company for deceptive labeling and the inclusion of High Fructose Corn Syrup. The packaging of the drink claimed that the drink was “all natural”.
High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) was the 3rd ingredient listed on the package and plaintiff was shocked to read this. It is a type of artificial sugar made from corn syrup and was used as a sweetener. HFCS is linked with many health issues like obesity, heart diseases, and diabetes.
Why is artificial sugar your baby’s enemy?
Does your baby really need all this sugar present in commercial food? The calories from sugar make them full and replace more nutritious foods like fruits and vegetables, organic cereals like oats, ragi, and millet.
We can see the ill-effects of this generation becoming heavy sugar consumers. Diabetes, obesity, heart diseases are at epidemic proportions, even among infants.
Commercial, non-organic food manufacturers are partly responsible for hooking these little babies to sugar. A British study found that out of 479 commercially available baby foods, 65 percent were sweetened. As taste preferences happen at Stage-1 of baby food, our kids start craving for sugar and ultimately become heavy sugar consumers in the future.
Let’s see how high-sugar foods affect kids
- The consumption of refined/artificial sugar can impair your baby’s immunity and increase his/her risk of infections and diseases.
- Some studies have shown that kids who are heavy sugar consumers tend to have a higher risk of heart diseases as adolescents and adults.
- Frequent consumption of sugary foods is linked to tooth decay, especially in babies who are just beginning to get their first teeth.
- Sugar intake at an early stage can reduce concentration levels in children.
- Sugar is one of the leading causes of hyperactivity in kids. Symptoms aggravate in kids suffering from ADHD.
Make an informed choice
What you feed your baby at stage 1 of starting solid foods plays an important role in their food preferences in life. This will define their liking towards certain tastes and textures.
According to a study, baby and toddler foods are not, by definition, ‘healthy’ foods and some exceed normal expectations for sugar and sodium.
58% of the products assessed have more than 20% of calories from sugar. Sugar levels were high in 45% of the products, and over half of those products – 56% – were designed for babies.
How do we protect our tiny tots?
- Avoid canned fruits, sweetened juices, and other beverages.
- Try and include organic and pure food items in your baby’s diet like organic cereals which are not chocolate or sugar based.
- Limit the intake of sugary items such as biscuits, cookies, sweetened drinks, and ice creams.
- Do not add sugar in homemade foods and try replacing it with natural sweeteners like fruit pulp, dates, and jaggery.
- Learn to read food labels carefully and identify the presence of hidden sugars.
Here is a list of hidden sugars in commercial baby food that you should avoid.
- malt syrup
- barley malt
- malt extract
- corn syrup
- raw sugar
- high-fructose corn syrup
When reading labels, check the order of appearance of the ingredients. Ingredients are listed from largest to smallest amount (by weight). This means that the first listed ingredient is present in the highest amount, followed by the ingredient present in the second-largest amount, and so on. In many baby foods, high fructose corn syrup is among the first three listed ingredients. Let’s become more aware of what we are feeding our baby and not let commercial baby food companies dictate our kids’ diet.