Helping your children develop healthy eating habits starts when they are young, says nutritional epidemiologist

I remember a decade ago sitting in front of my 9-month-old daughter, who was in her high chair, and trying to spoon-feed her a pureed green vegetable. It didn’t matter if it was peas, green beans, or something else, because the outcome was the same: I spooned it into her mouth, and it came right back out.

Compare this with feeding her applesauce, for which she would open her mouth after each bite and almost bounce in her chair with pleasure. I nearly danced along with her. This was easier! Let’s just keep doing this! But as a nutritional epidemiologist, I knew that solely satisfying her desire for sweetness wouldn’t benefit her health in the long run.

At the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health, I study the consequences of poor nutrition on the health of mothers and children. I recently served on a National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine committee that summarized guidelines on feeding infants and children up to age 2. As part of the committee, I helped to write a report about feeding young children added sugars and sugar-sweetened beverages. And—spoiler alert!—experts advise no added sugar for infants and little to no added sugar for children 12 to 24 months old.

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