Reader’s question: How to limit sugar in your toddler’s diet

Here’s how much sugar your toddler should be consuming, as well as simple swaps to help reduce their intake.

According to experts, most of the population consumes too much sugar on a daily basis.  While added sugars should only make up 5% of our daily calorie intake – thanks to hidden sugars in most foods – we’re consuming over double that! And the same goes for toddlers.

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A recent study concluded that half of the food products targeted toward babies and toddlers contain too much sugar. Of the 186 foods analysed, 53% of them contained at least 20% of calories from sugar – which can turn out to be any mother’s worse nightmare.

Apart from hyperactivity, too much sugar in your toddler’s diet can cause serious health problems including obesity, diabetes, tooth decay and poor bone development. That’s why it’s essential to monitor their intake.

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How Much Sugar Does Your Toddler Need?

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends assessing calorie needs based on your toddler’s age and body size. For children between the ages of 1 and 3 years, caloric intake should equal 40 calories per inch (2.54 cm) of height. In other words, if your toddler is 30 inches tall, they would need to consume 1 200 calories per day for optimum health. They add that a toddler should only be eating 17g of sugar a day (which works out to about 170 calories a day or 4.5 teaspoons of sugar).

Monitoring Sugar Intake

Hidden sugars are in most processed food so checking labels is probably the best way to keep track of your little one’s sugar intake – as time-consuming and annoying as this may be. Remember that when checking out labels, it’s important not to just look for the word ‘sugar’ as it goes by many other names:

  • High fructose corn syrup
  • Fruit juice concentrate
  • Sucrose
  • Glucose
  • Dextrose
  • Cane juice
  • Malt
  • Molasses
  • Lactose
  • Honey
  • Ethyl maltol
  • Maltodextrin

While I'm not anti-sugar, I highly recommend you avoid refined and processed sugar as it has no nutritional benefit. Sugar in its most raw form (in fruits and vegetables) can actually be beneficial to your little one. However, the kind found in sweets, cakes and sugary drinks should be avoided, or given to your bundle of joy sparingly.