Types of Sweeteners
Brown rice syrup
Brown rice syrup is one-third as sweet as refined white sugar and has a mildly sweet taste similar to butterscotch. It has a long shelf life, and does not crystallize, like honey can. It can be used as a sweetener in porridge and desserts, and it adds a crispy texture in baking. Babies can enjoy this syrup as a first introduction to sweeteners.
Amazake is a traditional sweet Japanese drink made from fermented rice and is high in complex carbohydrates, fiber, and the B vitamins niacin and thiamin. Amazake can be blended into a thick, creamy liquid that can be eaten like a pudding or used as a sweetener.
Maple syrup is the liquid form of the sap boiled down from the maple tree. This syrup is a good source of manganese, zinc, and fifty-four beneficial compounds, including antioxidants that inhibit enzymes correlating to type 2 diabetes. Despite maple syrup’s natural sweetness, many commercial pancake syrups add high-fructose corn syrup; check the label to make sure the syrup you purchase is real maple syrup. As far as quality and nutrition, there are no known nutritional distinctions between consuming different grades of maple syrup, but organic maple syrup eliminates the possibility of pesticides or chemical fertilizers used on the maple trees. Because the method for making maple syrup involves intense boiling, botulism spores cannot thrive under the sustained high temperature used in processing the sap into syrup. You can offer your baby maple syrup before he is one year old.
Honey has more calories than refined white sugar and is assimilated directly into the bloodstream very quickly. With its acidity, high glycemic conversion rate, and the potential exposure to botulism, honey should be avoided until your child is at least one year old, when his intestines have matured to handle the possibility of botulism spores. Honey can be used as a sweetener in baking or desserts.
Molasses is a thick, strong-flavored syrup that has long been used as a sweetener in traditional recipes. Some grades of molasses can be used as “table syrup” or poured onto cooked food, while other types of molasses are used in baking. Molasses has a strong flavor that affects the taste of the food. The dark blackstrap molasses is rich in calcium, iron, and potassium. Molasses also may contain botulism spores and is not recommended before your child is one year old.
Coconut palm sugar
Coconut palm sugar is an unrefined brown sugar with a caramel flavor. It is produced by tapping the nectar from the coconut palm tree flower, then condensing and drying the juice to make a whole brown sugar. It can be sprinkled on cereal, in desserts, and in baking. It has a low glycemic index, is highly nutritious, ecologically beneficial, and provides sustained energy.
Organic cane sugar
Organic cane sugar is made from organically grown sugarcane. This brownish sugar is still a refined sugar and therefore should be used in moderation after your baby is two years old. It is used in many products on the shelves of natural food stores, so check the labels carefully.
Brown sugar is processed sugar with molasses added. Brown sugar is more likely than other sugars to undergo significant processing, such as extra refinement to keep it moist. The dyes and chemicals that are often added make this sweetener one of the unhealthier options for children.
Agave is a type of plant, native to Mexico and the southwestern United States, and some varieties grow in Southern Africa. Agave contains several edible parts, and its sap is used as a sweetener. However, most agave nectar products found in stores are not made from the plant, but are rather chemically produced sweeteners that are far more processed and devoid of nutritional value than even high-fructose corn syrup.
Stevia is made from a plant indigenous to South America and has been used as a sweetener for hundreds of years. Only one, highly refined portion of the plant has been approved for use as a commercially available food sweetener in the United States. No specific studies have been done around the safety of stevia for infants or children.
Refined white sugar
Refined white sugar is 99.9 percent sucrose and is chemically refined from cane, beets, or corn with an intensely sweet flavor. White sugar is an ingredient found in many processed foods and lacks any nutritional value.
When to Introduce Sweeteners
Brown rice syrup is a mild natural sweetener to start with, and you can put a small amount in his grain cereals at around six months. Amazake can be added to grains for extra sweetness at the same age. You can introduce maple syrup around nine months. It is tapped from trees in a cold region, and has a sweeter taste than brown rice syrup for baking cookies, muffins, pies, and cakes. Honey could be considered an “animal food” because it is made by bees. It has a sweet-tasting, distinctive flavor that makes a good natural sweetener for baking or desserts. It should not be introduced before one year because of the possibility of botulism for young babies. Molasses can also be offered after his first birthday.
The chart below gives an overview of which sweeteners to start feeding at which age. It also includes how frequently to feed these sweeteners and which ones to avoid.