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Federal nutritional guidelines now include recommendations for infants and toddlers

Photo: nehopelon/iStockphoto

Washington — Dietary recommendations for infants and toddlers are included for the first time in the updated nutritional guidelines published by the departments of Agriculture and Health and Human Services.

Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020-2025 is designed to foster healthy dietary patterns for Americans of all ages, USDA and HHS note in a Dec. 29 press release. The guidelines, published every five years, are intended to be used by health care professionals and policymakers to share in public outreach and provide the “nutritional foundation” for federal nutritional programs, but “should not be considered clinical guidelines for the treatment of disease.”

For the first six months of life, USDA and HHS recommend that infants be exclusively fed human milk. This should continue through the first year of life, and longer if desired. When human milk isn’t available, iron-fortified infant formula is recommended. Additionally, infants should be provided supplemental vitamin D soon after birth.

Beginning at about 6 months of age, recommendations include:

  • Introducing nutrient-dense complementary foods
  • Introducing potentially allergenic foods and other complementary foods
  • Consuming a variety of foods, including those rich in iron and zinc, which are particularly important for children who are being fed human milk
  • Avoiding added sugar and high levels of sodium in foods and beverages
  • Transitioning to a healthy dietary pattern when weaning from human milk or infant formula

For adults, USDA and HHS took into consideration limits on added sugar and alcohol intake, but determined that “there was not a preponderance of evidence in the material” the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee reviewed to support specific changes.

Then-HHS Secretary Alex Azar added in the release: “The science tells us that good nutrition leads to better health outcomes, and the new dietary guidelines use the best available evidence to give Americans the information they need to make healthy decisions for themselves and their families.”

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