A sip of daddy’s soda, a gulp of mommy’s latte, and a taste of sister’s ice cream are more commonplace than many of us would like to admit. In an ideal world, babies and young toddlers would not eat any junk food, but that’s not the world we live in, as processed food and sweets are available at every turn.
Studies like the 2008 Feeding Infants and Toddlers Study (FITS) indicate that 85 percent of toddlers aged 2-3 years old are consuming soda, sweets, and processed foods and the obesity rate in preschoolers is higher than ever. These statistics show us that parents need a reality check when it comes to the food they offer their little ones.
The truth is, children develop their taste preferences and eating habits early on, and keeping food nutritious can set little ones up for a lifetime of healthy eating. Here are a few things to think about before you offer that French fry, sip of soda, or bite of cookie, especially to your baby and young toddler:
- Babies are hard-wired to prefer the flavor of sugar and fat. They are born this way.
- By 6 months old, if baby eats salty foods, they are likely to develop a taste for it.
- Offering sweets, fried, and salty foods early in a child’s life reinforces their preferences for sugar, fat, and salt.
- Growing babies and toddlers require over forty different nutrients each day to support growth. Added sugar crowds out important nutrients.
- Brains are growing rapidly and need healthy sources of fat, like those found in plant sources and fish (monounsaturated and polyunsaturated and DHA).
- Coffee-based drinks and sodas may contain caffeine, a stimulant drug considered inappropriate for all children, but especially young ones.
- Once children are over 2 years old, a sweet taste or a small cone is something all parents can work in while balancing the overall diet.
- Babies and children under 2 years old require a nutrient-dense diet with no added sugar, caffeine, or heavily processed food.
- Toddlers over 2 years old should have access to lean protein sources, low fat dairy foods, fruit, vegetables, wholesome grains and plant sources of fat.
- Small tastes and sips of sweets, soda, and fried foods can promote a taste preference for these foods later on.
- Added sugar takes away important nutrients for growing babies and toddlers.