The 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines For Americans have been released, and the United States advisory panel recommends parents avoid any sugar in their child’s diet for the first two years of their life.
We continue to learn about sugar and its effects on our body, and now the U.S. Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee has recommended that parents refrain from giving their children sugar in their first 1000 days. The recommendation is made not only to help better their long-term health, but to help shape healthier food choices and taste preferences.
The Committee is giving its nutritional recommendations to the United States Department of Health and Human Services, as well as the United States Department of Agriculture. For the first time ever, the 835 page report addressed recommendations for infants and toddlers up to 2-years-old and noted that sugar was simply not advisable for a child’s first two years.
The report also recommends babies either drink breast milk or infant formula exclusively (none of that ‘rice in the bottle at 4-months stuff’) for their first six months.
The committee recommended that parents and caregivers offer foods and beverages that had no added sugar for their first two years, as the energy in those products may displace energy that nutrient-dense foods would offer, and could lead to nutritional deficiency.
The report detailed the five categories that 70% of added sugar comes from:
- Sweetened beverages
- Desserts and sweet snacks
- Coffee and tea (with sugary additions)
- Candy and sugars
- Breakfast cereals and bars
In an interview with CNN, pediatrician Dr. Steven Abrams recommended that parents give little ones foods and drinks with natural sugars instead of foods like cookies, cereal bars or fruit juices. He said that while apples and oranges do contain sugar, they also give children fiber and add to their overall nutrition. He also shared that fruit juice, and particularly in your child’s first year of life, simply adds sugar without much nutrition and should always be avoided.
In 2019, a study by the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics found that 98% of babies and toddlers in the United States consumed added sugar in foods like fruit juices, yogurt, baked goods and snacks specifically made for babies. This early consumption of added sugar can lead to long-term health issues like obesity, diabetes, asthma and even high blood pressure.
In fairness, the guidelines urged ALL Americans to limit their consumption of added sugar to 6% or less of their total caloric intake. This is a change from their 2015-2020 guidelines which urged to limit to 10% or less. That means we’d likely need to more than half the amount of added sugar we currently take in. The report found that the demographic over-consuming sugar at the highest rates was children who were 4-18 years old. The report claims that 79% of children in that age group are exceeding the sugar recommendations
Other interesting findings in the report include the recommendation that infants should consume eggs, peanuts and other common allergens that can cause sensitivities in their first year, as doing so may lower risk of allergy in adulthood. They recommend feeding children a wide range of ‘adult foods’ (hello, baby-led feeding!) before they’re two as that may positively influence their tastes and their eating habits later in life.