Eloise is six months old (wow that time has whizzed by!) and has begun the journey of learning to eat like a normal person: a.k.a. solids. Ah, solids. It’s messy, gloopy, and glorious. My favourite thing is seeing the range of ‘hollywood’ faces that Eloise comes up with when tasting something she finds icky.
It turns out that having a sugar-free baby isn’t as easy as you’d expect, especially if you use commercially prepared baby food.
In New Zealand there is a wonderful (and free!) organisation called Plunket, who provide parents with support for their child’s development, well-being and health from 6 weeks – 5 years old. They are often the first port of call for any parent with a question or a problem, and they run lots of parenting workshops. D and I went to one of their talks on solids, and I am really glad that we made the effort to go. I wasn’t terribly motivated to go, as I didn’t find the prospect of what to feed my child to be daunting. I mean, how hard is it to use a stick whiz?
The talk was definitely worthwhile, especially the tip that if you plan to travel at all, it pays to get your baby used to having some commercially prepared baby food. This is so they don’t go ‘bleugh’ and refuse to eat whilst you are on holiday staying in a hotel with no cooking facilities. I honestly hadn’t thought of that! I’d planned to make all of Eloise’s food, but we go away often, so I traipsed to the supermarket to get a stash of baby noms.
I can’t find the specific research that Plunket bases its recommendations on, but for your baby’s first year they recommend not giving them any sugar, salt, soy sauce and honey. So you would think that NZ food companies would be quite vigilant about following these guidelines. Uh-uh.
David Gillespie and other sugar free gurus recommend that adults limit their sugar intake to under 10 grams a day. That’s a couple of pieces of fruit. And nothing else. So, I’ve become used to reading food labels carefully, trying to choose foods that have 6 grams of sugar or less.
Which is why looking at baby food gave me quite a shock. The pure fruit puree are fine, they tend to be 100% fruit, with nothing else added. However, anything dessertish is liable to contain more than 6 grams of sugar. In fact, I found several baby custards that actually list sugar in the ingredients.
As you can see in this photo, sugar is the third ingredient. This banana custard is 7.5% sugar, although some of that will come from fructose found in the milk and the banana. This was the lowest sugar content I could find in my local Countdown Supermarket for baby custard, and believe me, there are plenty of brands to choose from.
I feel like naming and shaming these companies. I thought baby food was highly regulated. Obviously the amount of sugar a baby would get from eating an entire jar of this food will be small, but that’s not the point. Babies should only be eating unadulterated fruit or things sweetened naturally (like vanilla pods).
Apparently even newborns show a preference for sweet things, but fruit should be enough to titillate their taste buds for their first year of life. Let’s not get ’em hooked on the white poison right from the get-go.
Tips for raising a sugar-free baby:
- Make the sweet stuff yourself. The savoury options looked okay, but I intend to make most of Eloise’s fruit-based solids myself. I also figure unsweetened custard will probably still taste interesting to her.
- Read food labels carefully. Even brands who call themselves ‘natural’ and ‘organic’ contained reasonable amounts of sugar per 100 grams.
- Choose all-fruit purees. I picked up a jar of 100% pear. Nothing else added. Have fun introducing your baby to the wonderful world of fruits but go easy on some of the tropical fruit combos which are naturally higher in fructose, as these babies are smart – they’ll want that one all the time, thank you very much!
- Give them fruit solids anytime of the day i.e. not as dessert. Most of the baby custards and the like are branded as ‘dessert’. Why start that habit?