Toddlers and Added Sugars: What You Need to Know

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What are added sugars?

According to the Centers for Disease Control, added sugars are sugars and syrups that are added to foods or beverages when they are processed or prepared. Naturally occurring sugars such as those in fruit or milk are not added sugars. Examples of added sugars commonly found on food labels include brown sugar, corn sweetener, corn syrup, dextrose, fructose, glucose, high-fructose corn syrup, honey, lactose, malt syrup, maltose, molasses, raw sugar, and sucrose. Added sugars contain little to no essential vitamins or minerals, and are a source of additional calories.

How many added sugars do infants and toddlers consume?

A study published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics in 2019 showed that 84.4% of infants and toddlers consumed added sugars on any given day. A greater proportion of toddlers (98.3%) consumed added sugars than infants (60.6%) based on a nationally representative sample of infants and children up to age 2 years during the period from 2011 through 2016 from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.

What infant and toddler foods contain added sugar?

According to the research, top sources of added sugars for infants were yogurt, baby food snacks/sweets, and sweet bakery products like cookies or cakes; top sources among toddlers were fruit drinks, sugars/sweets like candy, and sweet bakery products.

Our suggestions: A healthy diet with optimum amounts of vitamins, minerals, fiber, healthy types of fats and proteins is crucial for infants and toddlers younger than age 2 to support growth and development. Use these tips to give your young children the healthiest diet and a head start for lifelong good nutrition:

  • Instead of sweetened drinks like lemonade or fruit drinks, offer milk or plain water.
  • Try fresh fruit or fruit canned without added sugar for desserts instead of cookies.
  • Add unsweetened applesauce or mashed banana to plain yogurt instead of purchasing sweetened yogurt.
  • Babies don’t need sweets and snacks commonly marketed to infants. Instead of these sweet foods, offer your baby more baby food vegetables and fruits without added sugar.

By Lynn Grieger, RDN, CDCES, CHWC, CPT


  1. Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee. 2020. Scientific Report of the 2020 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee: Advisory Report to the Secretary of Agriculture and the Secretary of Health and Human Services. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service, Washington, DC.
  3. Park S., Pan L., Sherry B., Li R. The association of sugar-sweetened beverage intake during infancy with sugar-sweetened beverage intake at 6 years of age. Pediatrics. 2014; 134: S56-S62
  4. Herrick KA, Fryar CD, Hamner HC, Park S, Ogden CL. Added Sugars Intake among US Infants and Toddlers. J Acad Nutr Diet. 2020 Jan;120(1):23-32. doi: 10.1016/j.jand.2019.09.007. Epub 2019 Nov 14. PMID: 31735600; PMCID: PMC7512119.
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