The Sugary Truth about Baby Food

Baby food pouches and jars sold in every store are convenient when on-the-go or unable to cook at home. However, continuously relying on store-bought baby food pouches or jars everyday can pose a risk to a child’s general health and oral health.

Research published by the British Dental Association (BDA) earlier this year, found that baby food pouches have a shockingly high level of sugar. The research showed that some baby food pouches, especially those containing fruit, contain as “much sugar by volume as coca-cola”. In particular, the “boutique” or higher end brands that we would be most familiar with due to their clever marketing strategies, ranked as some of the highest in sugar content. Often products that include terms such as “organic”, “one of your five a day” or “not made from concentrate” tend to be the highest in sugar content. (BDA,2022 ; PHE,2019)

Similarly, research by Hutchinson et al., 2020 reported that savoury baby food pouches or jars even ranked high in sugar content. It is important to note that sugar will naturally occur in many foods that contain fruit, vegetables or milk, for example. However, many baby food producers are adding sugar or sweeteners into their products, on top of the sugar content that is already present in the product. A common sweetening ingredient found in many baby food products is fruit juice concentrate. (WHO, 2015)

Whilst there is no recommended daily allowance for free sugar intake for under 1 years, the WHO recommends that under 1’s should consume as little sugar as possible. High sugar content in baby foods has the potential to distort a child’s sense of taste as well as putting unnecessary stress on metabolic processes in a developing child.  Whilst it is not recommended that store bought baby food be used everyday, it is understandable that it is not feasible for parents to cook homemade meals daily. The pouches or jars can be used on occasion. A better alternative to baby food pouches or jars would be stewed fruit or vegetables.

How to Read Food Labels:

It is important to be able to understand food labels but sometimes this can be confusing. The higher the sugar content, the closer it appears to the top of the label. The nutritional information or food label will often be found on the back of the product. To help understand and calculate how much sugar is in the product, use this simple guide. 

                                4.2grams of sugar is equal to 1 teaspoon

 

  • Low Sugar Content            =  Less than 5 grams per 100 grams
  • Medium Sugar Content     =  5 grams – 15 grams per 100 grams
  • High Sugar Content           =  Greater than 15 grams per 100 grams

Sugar can be called many different names on food labels so it is important to know what is another name for sugar, some examples include;

  • Sucrose
  • Glucose
  • Galactose
  • Dextrose
  • Maltose
  • Demerara
  • Brown sugar
  • Maple sugar
  • Honey
  • Molasses 
  • Treacle syrup. 

 

Check the nutritional labels of all foods for your child, not all baby foods or pouches are extremely high in sugar. However, it is important to keep an eye out for those other names mentioned above that may not be labelled as sugar, the ingredients list are normally found on the back of the products as well.

 

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