Why I’m Not (Exactly) Following the AHA’s Childhood Sugar Guidelines

Toddler Feeding

Last year, the American Heart Association (AHA) published new recommendations on sugar consumption for children.

Among the sound advice was the recommendation that children ages two and up should consume no more than six teaspoons (25 grams) of added sugar per day and no more than eight ounces of sugar-sweetened beverages per week.

Added sugars include cane sugar, corn syrup, honey and maple syrup, among others. They’re very common in processed foods and high levels of consumption are linked to a variety of health conditions including obesity and heart disease, which explains why the AHA is so concerned with them.

The part of the new recommendations that most caught my attention as the mom of a tot was the statement, “children under the age of 2 years should not consume foods or beverages with added sugars, including sugar-sweetened drinks.”

I totally support the AHA’s reasoning behind this part of the recommendations. They say that because the calorie needs of this age group are lower than older children, added sugars would displace more nutritious foods, plus taste preferences begin during this time, so avoiding sugar should help little kids develop a preference for more nutritious foods.

Why one RD isn't (exactly) following the @American_Heart Association's guidelines on childhood sugar consumption Click To Tweet

As such, none of my daughter’s every day foods contain added sugar, even though it means taking extra steps like blending fruit puree into plain yogurt for her rather than buying commercial baby yogurt.

But it’s exactly because taste preferences start to develop before age two that I’m not completely prohibiting foods with added sugar from my one-and-a-half-year old’s diet. Sugary foods are a part of life and I want her to develop a healthy attitude towards them from the start. So we let her enjoy some of the treats my husband and I enjoy ourselves when the opportunities arise. It happens less than once a week and she usually has just a few bites. I’ve often seen her refuse more when she’s full, which I think is fantastic and I hope it’s an attitude I can continue to cultivate in her.

Don’t get me wrong, as soon as she learned to say “cookie” she started asking for them all the time. But I think she got the message when her dad and I regularly turned her down because she doesn’t ask as often now (not keeping cookies in the house also helps…).

My daughter on her first birthday. We let her have as much cake as she wanted!

I also don’t want to become the sugar police and monitor every morsel that crosses her lips. Not only would this majorly stress me out, but I imagine it would lead to some tantrums when everyone else was enjoying something except for her (which, of course, would stress me out further!)

So here’s to mostly following the AHA’s guidelines, for now. Stay tuned for an update after she turns two!

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