The Threenager is Real: Today’s Toddlers are Consuming as much Sugar as Teens

The Threenager is Real: Today’s Toddlers are Consuming as much Sugar as Teens

Temptation is everywhere, and recent research suggests it's equally invasive into the nutrition of teenagers as it is to toddlers.  Though the latter group isn’t yet old enough to make many of their own feeding choices, according to the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, 85% of them are being fed “foods with added sugars and artificial sweeteners regularly - even daily.” 

Perhaps the findings should be less surprising considering that these sugars are found now in everything from ​​packaged snacks to baked goods as well as baby foods, yogurts, and fruit drinks, but lead researcher Kirsten Herrick, PhD, MSc, remarks that “what is surprising is how much they are consuming and how quickly consumption amounts reach amounts similar to those of older children.”

In a previous blog post, we’ve detailed the daily recommended allowances by age, with those under two avoiding added sugars completely and those ages 2 to 18 having no more than 25 grams (6 teaspoons). Herrick’s study found that toddlers are near that limit, on average 5.8 teaspoons per day and infants averaged just under a teaspoon.  Both short and long term effects are detrimental ranging from less appetite for more nutritious foods to training tastebuds towards sweetened foods and, at worst leading to obesity and other lifelong health struggles.

While dietary guidelines were updated in 2020 for those under age 2, parents and pediatricians alike still need to be wary of identifying sometimes hidden sources of sugar in foods targeted towards early eaters. As Herrick says, “for infants and toddlers especially, a healthy diet that meets the recommended intake of key nutrients leaves little room for the extra calories from added sugars.”    

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