The aim was to identify the important sources of added sucrose and determinants of high intake, and to evaluate what impact a high proportion of energy from added sucrose has on the intake of foods and nutrients. The subjects consisted of children invited to the nutrition study within the Type 1 Diabetes Prediction and Prevention birth cohort and born in 2001 (n 846). Of these, 471 returned 3 d food records at 3 years of age. The average daily intake of added sucrose was 35 (sd 17) g (11·3 % of energy intake) and that of total sucrose was 41 (sd 18) g (13·3 % of energy intake). Sucrose added by manufacturers accounted for 82 %, naturally occurring sucrose for 15 % and sucrose added by consumers for 3 % of the total sucrose. Juice drinks, yoghurt/cultured milks, and chocolate and confectionery were the main contributors to added sucrose intake. Consumption of rye bread, porridge, fresh vegetables, cooked potatoes, skimmed milk, hard cheeses, margarine and fat spread as well as intake of most nutrients decreased across the quartiles of added sucrose (P < 0·05). Being cared for at home, having a father with a vocational school degree, having at least two siblings and a milk-restricted diet increased the risk for a high-sucrose diet. The study implied that a high proportion of added sucrose in the diet had mainly an unfavourable impact on the intake of recommended foods and key nutrients in Finnish children. The rationale for the recommendation to reduce the intake of refined sugars to ensure adequate intakes of nutrients seems reasonable.