How bad is sugar for babies?

Dr Sophie Niedermaier

Christmas time comes along with plenty of sweet treats and many parents are concerned about giving their little ones too much sugar. But what does this actually mean? Is sugar really bad for our babies? The answer is: No but sugar needs to be consumed responsively:) Our In-House paediatrician Sophie is here to explain why! 


Sugar is everywhere

Almost every single food item contains sugar as it is the building block for all carbohydrates. Sugar and carbohydrates are more or less the same and every food contains carbohydrates - or sugar! 

The smallest building block for carbohydrates is simple single unit sugar, such as glucose or fructose (fruit sugar). Several single unit sugars are combined to more complex chains. They are called complex carbohydrates, such as starch, which we find in potatoes. 

In fact, the first food babies eat (breast milk or formula) is composed of lactose, or known as milk sugar. 

When we talk about ‘bad’ sugars, we usually mean table sugar - or sucrose. It is composed of only two sugar molecules. We will explain later why it is not a great choice for your little one.

So why worry about sugar?

If the food we eat provides more energy than we burn, our body stores this excess energy as fat. This means that overeating over a long period of time will lead to obesity. 

Sweet and sugary foods are often energy-dense. Sweetened drinks and fruit juices are relatively high in sugar but don’t make us feel satisfied as the liquid is processed rapidly in our stomach. They can, therefore, lead to overconsumption of energy.

How do I handle sugar responsibly?

The type and quantity of sugar we eat is much more important than if we eat it at all. Our body needs sugar as energy fuel and it is the main energy source for our brain. For infants, about 40 - 50% of calories should come from carbohydrates. 

Sugar in its simple form (table or fruit sugar) is easily absorbed and gives us a peak in our blood sugar level. This is good if we need energy quickly but it won’t satisfy us and we will become hungry again in a little while. 

Complex carbohydrates are chains of sugar molecules strung together. You can find them in whole grains, lentils, beans, veggies and all other sorts of fibre-rich foods. Our body takes a longer time to break down these chains into smaller sugar molecules. This is why complex carbohydrates keep us satisfied for longer and keep our blood sugar level stable.

Choosing complex carbohydrates for your little one will help them to get used to a healthy diet later on in life, as the first few years of their lives set their preferences. 

Overall, sugar is not the devil, but the amount we consume is. A balanced diet counts more than eating a chocolate bar on some occasions. Make sure you have a routine for tooth hygiene and help your little one choose reasonable portion sizes. Getting your little one used to healthy tastes, such as dark-green veggies, in the first 12 months of life helps them choose less energy-dense foods later on in life.

How can Little Tummy help?

At Little Tummy, we make sure that we keep the amount of simple sugar in our meals to a minimum. We do this by cold-pressing our meals instead of heat-treating them. All ambient baby food pouches are treated with extreme heat which sets free fruit sugars and breaks down more complex sugars. In contrast, our gentle cold-pressure method ensures that we preserve the complex sugars. We also carefully choose ingredients which are sources of fibre, such as dark green veggies, ancient grains, chickpeas and lentils. We are here to help you raise a healthy eater!

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