Toddlers Eat More Sugar Than Is Safe For Adults, Study Says

While many parents are taking better care of their health these days and watching what they eat, they may want to take a closer look at their children's diet. A new study has found that many toddlers are consuming more sugar a day than is recommended for adults. It has also found that toddlers begin consuming added sugar before they even turn one year old.

Shockingly, 99% of US toddlers in the 19 - 23 months age range consumed almost as much sugar a day as is found in a Snickers bar. The sample group was found by the study to consume just over 7 teaspoons of added sugar a day.

Lead study author Kirsten Herrick, a nutritional epidemiologist at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention looked at the data of more than 800 children between the ages of 6 and 23 months.

Herrick analyzed data from more than 800 infants and toddlers between 6-23 months old who participated in the 2011-2014 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES). This was a survey that asked parents to write down everything their child ate over the course of a day. The results were shocking, especially given all that we know of the dangers of added sugars.

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85% of infants and todddlers were consuming sugar almost daily, and as they got older the amount they consumed increased. 60% of infants between the ages of 6-11 months were consuming just under one teaspoon of sugar daily. At the age of 12-18 months that number rose to 98%, with the average sugar consumed measuring 5.5 teaspoons and by 19-23 months 99% of children were consuming on average 7 teaspoons of added sugar.

"This is the first time we have looked at added sugar consumption among children less than 2 years old," Herrick said. "Our results show that added sugar consumption begins early in life and exceeds current recommendations. These data may be relevant to the upcoming 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans."

child eating sugar from bowl
Credit: iStock / vanko_Brnjakovic

According to Eureka Alert!, children between the ages of 2-19 should be consuming 6 teaspoons or less of added sugar per day. The same amount applies to adult women, while the acceptable number for adult men is less than 9 teaspoons per day.

If the results of this finding are concerning to you, Herrick has some advice on how to reduce the consumption of added sugars to your infant or toddler's diet.

"The easiest way to reduce added sugars in your own diet and your kids' diet is to choose foods that you know don't have them, like fresh fruits and vegetables," she said.

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