Baby food has too much sugar, WHO suggests

Two recent studies conducted by the World Health Organisation (WHO) have found that a large portion of baby foods have excessive amounts of sugar and are inappropriately marketed for babies under the age of 6 months. Most baby foods are formulated to taste sweet. However, one study suggests that infants have no preference for sweetened foods, and concludes that there is no reason to add sugar to commercial baby foods.

Flavours such as chocolate are not appropriate for infants and young children, and may encourage a life-long preference for unhealthy sweet foods.

Dietary guidelines for infants

Good nutrition in infancy and early childhood remains key to ensuring optimal child growth and development, and to better health outcomes later in life – including the prevention of overweight, obesity and diet-related noncommunicable diseases.

Dr Zsuzsanna Jakab, WHO Regional Director for Europe.

1. Exclusive breastfeeding

The WHO’s longstanding recommendation states that babies should be breastfed, exclusively, for the first 6 months. Breastfeeding provides the highest quality nourishment, care and protection possible for infants. Exclusive breastfeeding in the 6 month period motivates better growth, and reduces the likelihood of babies falling sick.

The WHO found that South Africa has one of the lowest breastfeeding rates in the world (32%), with an observed decline in urban areas, where parents seem to be adding water and other foods at an early stage.

2. Structured weaning

The weaning process begins the first time a baby takes food from a source other than it’s mothers breast. During the weaning process, breastfeeding is still strongly advocated up until the age of 18 months at least.

Solids should be introduced at 6 months with weaning staple foods supplemented by cheap, high energy, oily foods such as peanut butter, margarine and vegetable oil. Cheap sources of protein such as beans, lentils, sour milk and eggs, along with various fruit and vegetables will ensure a balanced diet.

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