Why is it not recommended to give salt and sugar for babies less than one year of age?
This is a very common question from all new parents who wean their babies. Naturally parents want their children to have the best of everything.
It is important to provide a healthy and balanced diet for babies above 6 months. This will ensure that they receive adequate amount of vitamins and nutrients needed for their growth. Parents are advised not to add salt or sugar at the time of weaning or introduction of complementary foods due to several reasons.
There is no disagreement that sugar is unhealthy for adults and children alike. Doctors and nutritionists agree that sugar causes more harm than good to the human body. It is therefore easily understood that a small baby should not be exposed to this unhealthy ingredient which is unfortunately overly consumed by the world at large.
What is meant by sugar is “Refined Sugar”, not the natural sweetness of fruits or natural sweeteners. Refined sugar is an end product of many chemical processes. Therefore, it may contain traces of harmful chemicals. In addition to that, excess sugar damages erupting teeth, promotes caries and tooth decay in children. Sugar is also proven to weaken the immune system. This could be a reason for repeated colds, flus and other infections which is a common complaint in children these days. Children fed with high sugar diet are prone to develop cardiovascular diseases, diabetes and obesity.
Too much of salt is bad for the baby’s kidneys. Most children require less than 1 g of salt per day (0.4 g of sodium). This requirement is mostly met by the breastmilk or formula milk. Therefore, adding any extra salt will be a burden to their tiny kidneys. This may lead to kidney disease. It has been proven that extra salt given during childhood can cause hypertension later in life. Excessive salt intake in childhood is also associated with osteoporosis, cardiovascular diseases and respiratory illnesses in adulthood.
When food is introduced to a child, the parents tend to worry that the child may dislike bland or tasteless food. For this reason, they try to add some sugar or salt to make the child accept his or her meal. Taste preferences for sugar and salt are mostly innate. But parents and caregivers have the opportunity to modify these preferences at this tender age. Eating practices acquired at this age contribute to lifelong nutritional habits and overall health. Resist adding sugar and salt to encourage them eat. If your child refuses a certain food, try to drop it and try it at another time. To decide that your child does not like a particular food you should have tried that food at least 20 times. In general, parents should use the approach of “the parent provides, the child decides,” in which the parent provides healthy food options, and the child chooses which foods to eat and how much.
Another common argument is that children fed salt and sugar are perfectly healthy and seem to have no problem. As the article highlights, the negative effects of sugar and salt may not be immediate. They have been proven to negatively affect a child even after reaching adulthood.
- American Academy of Pediatrics. 2015. Sodium and Sugar in Complementary Infant and Toddler Foods Sold in the United States. March. Accessed October 10, 2019. https://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/135/3/416.
- American Academy of Pediatrics. 2012. Sodium Intake Influences Children’s Blood Pressure Levels. September 17. Accessed October 10, 2019. https://www.aap.org/en-us/about-the-aap/aap-press-room/pages/Sodium-Intake-Influences-Childrens-Blood-Pressure-Levels.aspx.
- Riley, Lyrad K., Jedda Rupert, and Olivia Boucher. 2018. Nutrition in Toddlers. August 15. Accessed October 10, 2019. https://www.aafp.org/afp/2018/0815/p227.html.