What's New in the US Dietary Guidelines?
Every five years, USDA and HHS issue an updated set of Dietary Guidelines, designed to reflect the latest in nutrition science. These guidelines are used to set standards for things like the school lunch program, to guide health and nutrition legislative policy, and to establish recommendations for Americans to follow to improve their health.
Issued in late December, the 2020 version of the Dietary Guidelines contained the first-ever Dietary Guidelines for Infants and Toddlers, to address the specific nutrition concerns of this age group. Two important recommendations to note, especially if you're pregnant or have young children:
-- Breast milk only for the first six months of life;
-- No added sugar for children under the age of 2.
The Guidelines go on to say that if breast milk isn't available, babies should get iron-fortified infant formula for the first year of their life. The "no solid or other foods age 6 months" may surprise some of us who were told by pediatricians to start cereals and other soft foods at an earlier age, so be sure to bring this up with your child's doctor if you have questions. Also, the Guidelines recommend introducing potentially allergenic foods like peanuts at the same time as other foods, as research shows that this may reduce the risk that a full allergy will develop later.
The update on no added sugar intake until the age of two is actually a big one - does this mean the end of smash cakes at first birthday parties? Not according to most dietitians, who know the value of food in important celebrations, but it should give pause to the practice of allowing young children to develop a liking for candy, sweet baked goods and beverages with added sugar. It's never too early to start instilling healthy eating habits in kids.
Despite the urging of some scientists, these new Guidelines did stop short of recommending that everyone limit added sugar intake to less than six percent of their caloric intake. Instead, the previous benchmark of a limit of ten percent of daily calories for added sugar intake was left intact. Either way, we know that just about everyone can make health improvements by reducing the amount of added sugar they consume. If you're still looking for a succinct action item for a 2021 New Year's Resolution, that's a good one!
For more information about the new USDA/ HHS Dietary Guidelines 2020, and how to implement in your daily
diet, go to the MyPlate.gov web site.