Fruit squeeze pouches, juice and apple sauce are just a few of the foods you’ll see lining the baby food section of your local supermarket. Translation? Sugar, sugar and more sugar. With the growing body of evidence of the health costs of the sweet stuff, these calls for an update to our food standards are well overdue. But better late than never, right? Here’s what health experts are saying, plus one pertinent action that could save your baby’s health.
In light of new research from Western Sydney University on the nutrition of popular processed baby food products like squeeze pouches, researchers are advising parents to take caution when shopping for their little ones. The reason? Well, it’s what we’ve been waxing poetic about for years here at I Quit Sugar – sugar, of course! We’ll be diving into what this stuff does to your little one’s brain and body, along with the sneaky loophole food companies are using to get away with loading their products with sugar.
The added-sugar loophole
The sugar content of many popular baby food products shoots them way over the daily limit – but how can companies get away with this? Well, it’s all down to a sneaky loophole. Essentially, our definition of added sugars is more than a little contradictory to that of the World Health Organisation as it only encompasses the addition of sucrose, meaning that grainy white stuff we all think of when we think of sugar. But there’s a big problem here – free sugars; those which exist naturally in foods like fruits, veggies and grains, are allowed in excess in baby food (and adult food, but that’s another matter altogether!) but companies get to put that “no added sugar” stamp on regardless, even if the sugar content is far past safe. Yet, they’ll still pass the basic health requirements of the Food Standards Australia and New Zealand. Yes, it’s true that the sugar count will be listed on the back of the pack, but health professionals say these marketing tactics around sugar are highly misleading and are causing parents to make misinformed decisions around their baby’s health. The Obesity Policy Coalition manager and researcher, Jane Martin, told Cosmos Magazine that the bulk of processed baby foods didn’t match up to some of the World Health Organisation’s minimum health suggestions.
“We found that two thirds of these foods failed to meet the nutrition recommendations for their category,” she said.
Martin also found in her recent research that a whopping 9 out of 10 toddler food products also failed to meet these recommendations. Yikes. Not only are these foods failing to provide the minimum suggested nutrient content, they’re also overloading little ones with sugars – and though they may be “free” sugars from fruit, they’re often void of fibre, meaning those sugars go straight to the bloodstream without a buffer, leading to imbalanced blood-sugar levels. It’s also possible to consume too many of these natural sugars, particularly when they’re crammed into an ultra-processed product.
The effect of sugar on developing bodies
We know that too much sugar can cause us to gain weight, raise our risk for type 2 diabetes and heart disease – but what is it doing to a developing brain and body? Well, for starters, children are more likely to become addicted than adults, and that’s because, as research has found, kids have a stronger taste for the sweet stuff – and when you combine this with an underdeveloped brain and a lack of self-control, little ones are at an elevated risk for addiction, and this can follow them throughout their lives. We’ve also got studies showing kids are at risk of facing developmental problems and long-term health consequences like obesity and type 2 diabetes when exposed to a high-sugar diet from early childhood – and, considering the deceptive marketing of some of the most popular baby food products, many of us are endangering our kids without even realising it. Now, just to get the record straight, it’s officially recommended that kids under 2 years of age don’t consume any added sugars, while kids over 2 should have no more than 6 teaspoons a day – and that limit is there for a reason. Take a look at some of the effects of excess sugar consumption in early childhood:
- Increased aggression
- Higher risk for mood disorders
- Higher risk for obesity
- Weaker immune system
- Brain fog
- Higher risk for developmental learning problems
So, it’s no wonder researchers and health experts are up in arms about the dangers of our baby food industry. As we've long said, the detrimental effects of sugar isn't news – at this rate, the slow progress in regulating the sugar content of processed baby foods is nothing short of malevolent.
What you can do to protect your baby
You’re probably wondering what’s left for your baby to safely eat if the bulk of products are bursting with sugar. Don’t worry, there is a solution, and it’s what we’re all about here at I Quit Sugar – whole foods! If your baby is ready for solids – and keep in mind, the current recommendation for starting your baby on solids is to wait until around six months of age as, until that point, the Australian National Health and Medical Research Council recommends solely feeding your child breastmilk or formula – then there are a number of wholesome foods to offer your little one. Iron, omega 3 and zinc-rich foods are most important as these are the nutrients lacking in breast milk, so any of the following are worth offering your baby – you might be surprised at what they like!
- Egg yolks
- Cod liver oil
- Bone broths
From around eight months of age, foods like salmon and fatty fish can be added in. Our best tip is to steer clear of any ultra-processed foods high in sugar, even if they are “free” sugars! At the snail's pace regulatory bodies are moving at, there's little point in waiting for the popular processed brands to shape up – it's time to take your baby's health into your own hands.
Need a little help fighting sugar addiction? Join us for the 8-Week Program and we’ll help you change the way you look at food – and that doesn’t mean you have to follow restrictive diets or miss out on your favourite foods; we believe you can still enjoy delicious food without jeopardising your health. With celebrity chef Sarah Glover on our panel of experts, you’ll have an array of fun recipes at your fingertips, along with our own exclusive armoury of simple, tasty and healthy recipes for everything from daily meals to impressive entertaining. We know it can be hard to stick to your health goals – especially when you’re trying to manage it alone. When you sign up with us, you’ll have access to clear-cut meal plans, community support and exclusive access to our sugar-free content. Here’s what’s on offer:
- 8 weeks of meal plans and shopping lists.
- 90+ member-only recipes.
- Community forums to share your journey.
- Support and guidance from the I Quit Sugar team.
- Exclusive content from our panel of experts.
So, if you’re ready to ditch sugar and the host of maladies that come with it, it’s not too late to join. We’d love to help you get started on your health journey. Sign up HERE today!