It’s common knowledge that refined sugars are a big no-no in the diets of babies and young children. Quite aside from the harm that they do to emerging teeth, refined sugars are renowned for contributing to behavioural problems such as hyperactivity, attention deficit disorders and mood swings.
But did you know that – from a biological viewpoint – refined carbohydrates are very similar to sugar – and that their effect on the body is similar, too?
White bread contains refined carbohydrates
And so do many foods that are made with white flour. When wheat grains are processed to make white flour, the bran and the germ are removed. These are the healthiest parts of the grain, packed with fibre, protein, vitamins and minerals.
Once they’re removed, you’re left with simple carbohydrates which are – essentially – empty calories. These simple carbs cause raised levels of blood glucose immediately following consumption, leading to the inevitable ‘crash’, which explains the behvioural effects noticed by many parents.
Scarier still, doctors advise that the fluctuating blood sugar levels caused by consuming refined carbohydrates may lead to overeating, and may also increase the risk of diabetes and heart disease in later life.
Unrefined carbohydrates, on the other hand, contain the whole grain. This means that this still contain all their natural nutrients and are far healthier for your baby.
The following foods are all examples of refined carbohdrates. Try to avoid offering these foods to your baby wherever possible…
- white flour
- sugary cereals
- white bread
- pasta made with white flour
- white rice
The following foods all contain whole grains and are the BEST nutritional choices for your little one…
- whole wheat bread (known as wholemeal bread in the UK)
- whole wheat pasta
- whole grain (brown) rice
- porridge oats/oatmeal
Don’t be misled by labels
When you’re choosing commercially baked foods for your baby – or items like pasta – it’s important to pay careful attention to the labelling to see if the products contain refined carbohydrates.
Tips for avoiding refined carbohydrates in your baby’s diet…
- Remember that ingredients are listed by weight. This means that the ingredients listed first will be present in the food in the largest quantity.
- You’ll often come across the term ‘enriched’, which somehow sounds healthy…. but isn’t! It simply means that the food has been refined, then some of the nutrients that the refining process removed have been added back in! For complete nutrition, you want products containing unrefined, whole carbohydrates.
- Any time that you see grains listed as an ingredient, ensure that the word ‘whole’ is in front of them.
- Don’t be fooled by the term ‘wheat flour’. It’s actually a refined carbohydrate and is NOT the same as whole wheat flour.