Easy Ways to Limit Sugar in Your Toddler’s Diet

While a little dessert from time to time is OK, it’s important to limit your child’s sweets to reduce their risk of heart disease and tooth decay. Don’t get us wrong, a treat every now and then is fine, and you shouldn’t feel like you have to get rid of sugar completely. The thing is, it’s not just the typical “treats” that are packing in the sugar. That’s why we’re uncovering the sneaky places sugar hides and how to reduce your child’s intake.

toddler eating fruit snacks

Sugar can hide in foods, drinks and snacks where you’d least expect to find it. Since the American Heart Association recommends that kids ages 2 to 18 limit added sugar to 6 teaspoons (or 25 grams) per day, it’s important to learn how to detect the secret spots where sugar likes to hide in toddler snacks.

One of the sneakiest sugar tricks is fruit snacks. With one small pack of fruit snacks containing half of a child’s recommended sugar intake for the day, they’re less snack and more dessert.

Other sneaky sugary foods include:

  • Canned spaghetti and ravioli
  • Yogurt melts (not only are these packed with sugar, but they’re also a choking hazard)
  • Smoothie pouches
  • Breakfast cookies
  • Breakfast cereals
  • Cereal bars
  • Muffins
  • Fig bars

For the best, easiest and cheapest healthy toddler snacks, look outside the baby food aisle. Things like fresh fruit and vegetables, whole-grain crackers, or cereals with 6 grams of sugar or less per serving (look for the WIC label) are all great options.

toddler drinking sweet fruit drink

Sweet drinks, like fruit juice (even 100% fruit juice), flavored milk, soda, sweet tea and sports drinks are the No. 1 source of sugar in kids’ diets. When you see a bottle of juice, you might as well think of it as soda, since our bodies process natural sugar the same way as they do added sugar.

If your child isn’t a fan of sweet drinks, that’s great news! But chances are, if they’ve had it once, they might ask for it again (and again). If that’s the case, here are some good habits to try to lower their intake:

  • Keep servings of juice to 4 ounces or less. Once the juice is all gone, refill your child’s cup with water instead of more juice.
  • Take baby steps when cutting back on sweet drinks. If your child drinks 3 cups of juice per day, cut back to 2 cups for a few weeks, then 1 cup per day and then eventually only offer it sometimes as a special treat. If you’re making your own chocolate milk at home, gradually use less and less of the chocolate syrup.
  • Avoid filling a sippy cup with juice and letting your child sip on it over a long period of time. Drinking from a sippy cup causes sugar to stay on the teeth longer, which can lead to tooth decay.
  • Water down juice, fruit drinks and sports drinks. Start by diluting the sweet drinks down, making half of the serving water.
  • Use less sugar when making your own sweet tea or lemonade.