[Translated article. Go to original source here]
The World Health Organization’s advice on infant and young child feeding couldn’t be clearer. Exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months; and from then on, progressive and safe introduction of appropriate and healthy foods, maintaining breastfeeding for at least 2 years. However, many families find it hard to trust that this is enough. In part, because the food industry invests a lot of money in convincing us that babies and children need special products -such as baby food, cereals, or juices- to grow and develop in a healthy way.
“Concerned parents often make the mistake of offering their babies juices because they think they lack vitamins. They don’t lack vitamins, they eat too much salt, sugar, unhealthy fats, empty calories…” explains the Spanish nutritionist Julio Basulto. Breast milk contains all the nutrients a baby needs during its first twelve months of life unless otherwise directed by a pediatrician. Juices, children’s cereals, and other products apparently designed for children specifically are not only unnecessary but can be harmful.
The problem with juices (including 100% homemade and natural)
The typical orange juice that many people drink with breakfast is usually considered a healthy option. Even more the one we squeeze ourselves. However, the juice is not comparable to consuming one or several pieces of fruit, whether or not it is 100% natural or homemade juice. “When you drink juice, a lot of sugar enters your body at high speed. This doesn’t happen when you chew on a piece of fruit: it takes longer for your body to metabolize it. Eating three oranges would take you about 3 minutes. It can take 8 seconds to ‘drink’ three oranges,” warns Basulto.
Thus, our satiety mechanisms do not react the same when we drink juice as when we chew fruit. When the juice drinker is a baby there are more problems. “The juice does not contain the calories that breast milk does have. It also does not have the protein or the fats for necessary growth. According to J. Basulto, juices are not giving infants and children the healthy calories they need”. It is unhealthy, and children also increase their risk of suffering from cavities or obesity in the future. For this reason, the reference health authorities recommend a maximum consumption of half a glass of natural fruit juice per day.
“Cereals for children are absolutely expendable”
Next time you visit a supermarket or a pharmacy, spend a few minutes looking at the boxes of cereals for babies and children that you will find on many shelves. In huge letters, you can read health statements. Gluten-free cereals, with lots of vitamins, Bifidus, minerals, fiber… Apparently, they are super healthy products. “What it is not said in capital letters is that they can have more than 20% of their weight in sugar. Some even reach 30%. That means that one is pure and hard sugar out of every three tablespoons,” says Julio Basulto.
The most curious thing is that some products containing ‘no added sugar’ also contain a lot of sugar. “Through food technology processes, such as hydrolysis, sugar is extracted from starch. If you look at the label, even if there is no added sugar, you will see that they can also have more than 20% sugar,” says Julio Basulto. This is how we fall into the trap: we offer sugar to children thinking we are doing the opposite.
“Cereals for children are very present in the diet of babies in our environment, but they are absolutely dispensable,” adds Basulto. It is true that the body and brain need sugar to function, but the necessary amounts are present in fruits, vegetables, and other natural foods. As we know, excess sugar increases the risk of obesity; and this increases cardiovascular risk. In the West, cardiovascular diseases are the first cause of mortality.
Babies and children do not need special foods, but to be introduced naturally into a healthy family diet.