Sugar in fruit. Many parents wonder, is fruit bad for babies and toddlers? Here’s what to know about the sugar in fruit and when babies can have fruit.
One of the most frequent questions we receive from parents is whether fruit has too much sugar to give to babies.
We’ve even seen discussions online around waiting to introduce fruit until kids are older, as not to promote a sugar habit.
It seems that many people seem to think fruit sugar can lead to health problems and should be avoided, starting in infancy.
Let’s clear up this misconception, once and for all!
Fruit Sugar vs. Added Sugar
Sugar, in all of its forms, is sweet and has an impact on blood sugar and insulin response. And it’s true that both fruit and desserts contain sugar.
That being said, the body’s response to eating a piece of fruit is MUCH different than to eating birthday cake. Not to mention, the differences in nutritional value between the two is significant.
Natural sugar in fruit comes packaged with other nutrients. Vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, phytochemicals, and fiber in fruit offer numerous health benefits. They actually slow the absorption of ingested sugar and are protective against disease.
Cookies, donuts, and sugary cereals, on the other hand, are generally lacking in the beneficial nutrient department. Sugar is added to them. They’re also usually surrounded by highly refined low-fiber grains. So, there’s nothing to slow uptake of sugar into the bloodstream (spike) or the subsequent insulin response (crash).
What the Research Says
The bottom line is that fruit isn’t the problem when it comes to sugar. Fruit is good for us! It’s the many sources of added sugar in our food system, including items targeted to kids that should get the side-eye.
In fact, while research shows that diets high in added sugar are associated with higher rates of disease, there is zero evidence that fruit is associated with health problems for babies and toddlers (or anyone else, for that matter).
Furthermore, studies demonstrate harmful effects of consuming fructose, but this in the context of high-fructose corn syrup and table sugar. Not the fructose found in whole fruit.
So please rest assured, mamas, that giving your babe fruit is NOT going to set them up for a sugar addiction. Nor does it have the same health effects as sugary packaged foods.
Fruit likely even help babies develop a palate for healthy plant foods as they get older. We recommend introducing baby to a variety of fruits as soon as you begin the transition to solid foods.
How Much Fruit Should Babies and Toddlers Have?
We support including a variety of whole fruits in your babe’s diet. Serving fruit several times per day isn’t just safe and appropriate for babe, it offers tons of benefits!
Experts recommend getting 5-7 servings of fruit per day. Offering babe a variety of fruits is a great way to help them meet these recommendations and develop healthy habits as they grow. Whole fruit is a healthy part of a plant-based diet, along with veggies, nuts/seeds, legumes, and grains.
How to Introduce Fruit to Babies
The most important thing to remember when introducing fruit to babes is to offer it in an age appropriate way. To safely introduce fruit, make sure they’re soft and/or cut into pieces that baby can grasp.
A few ways to offer fruit through baby-led weaning, and to toddlers, include:
- Bananas, cut into thin strips
- Applesauce, no sugar added
- Clementine slices, cut into smaller segments for younger babes
- Blueberry chickpea balls
- Pineapple in green smoothies
- Strawberries, chopped into oatmeal or used in homemade tofu yogurt
- Blackberries and raspberries, cut into smaller segments for younger babes
- Apples, peeled and stewed until soft with nutmeg, cinnamon, and ginger
- Mango, in mango chia pudding
- Pear grilled “cheeze” sandwiches
We also want to note that fruit juice is not recommended for kids, especially before the age of 2. It’s been stripped of its fiber and often contains added sugar, which could promote childhood obesity and cavities when consumed in excess. Best to avoid this habit.
Whole fruits served in age appropriate ways are a much better, healthier option for your babe.
Sugar in fruit is not the same as added sugar found in many packaged foods, refined snacks, and desserts. If you’ve been wondering, is fruit bad for babies and toddlers, the answer is a resounding no. In fact, fruit sugar is paired with beneficial nutrients, like vitamins, minerals, and fiber. As for when babies can have fruit, you can introduce them as soon as you start solids. Just be sure to offer them in age appropriate ways.
Chime In: Have you heard the fruit sugar myth? What are some of your babe’s favorite fruits?
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