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Oklahoma State University

Dietary guidelines revision now has recommendations for infants and toddlers

Friday, January 22, 2021

An updated version of Dietary Guidelines for Americans recently released by U.S. departments of Agriculture and Health and Human Services provides new information for infants and toddlers. (Photo by Gail Ellis, OSU Agricultural Communications)

For the first time since its inception in 1980, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans report now includes a section detailing nutritional information for infants and toddlers, from birth to 23 months old.

The update released at the end of 2020 provides science-based advice on what to eat and drink to promote good health, reduce the risk of chronic disease and meet nutrient needs. It is jointly published by the U.S. departments of Agriculture and Health and Human Services every five years.

Janice Hermann, Oklahoma State University Extension nutrition specialist, said the guidelines are designed for policymakers, along with nutrition and health professionals, to help all individuals and their families consume a healthy, nutritionally adequate diet.

“These guidelines are the culmination of years of research, scientific review, public involvement and U.S. governmental approval,” Herman said. “It’s exciting to see information regarding the youngest of our population.”

Using the slogan “Make Every Bite Count,” the 2025 DGA emphasizes nutrient-dense foods and beverages while eliminating those high in added sugar, saturated fat and sodium, while staying within caloric limits. It also establishes a life-stage approach to create recommendations for different age groups, including women who are pregnant or lactating.

For example, the new guidelines indicate for the first six months of life that infants should exclusively be fed human milk, or iron-fortified infant formula should be given if human milk is not available.

The DGA goes further and indicates infants who are breastfed should be provided with supplemental vitamin D beginning soon after birth. Infant formula is fortified with vitamin D.

“Babies need vitamin D for healthy growth and development, and it helps build strong, healthy bones and teeth,” Hermann said.

When babies reach about 6 months of age, the DGA suggests introducing infants to nutrient-dense complementary foods. Babies also should continue drinking human milk or iron-fortified infant formula through at least their first year of life. It is also the time to introduce potentially allergenic foods.

In addition, the DGA recommends infants and toddlers less than 2 years of age avoid foods and beverages with added sugar and limit foods and beverages higher in sodium. Starting at age 2, recommendations are to limit added sugars to less than 10% of calories per day and limit saturated fat to less than 10% of calories per day.

“Establishing healthy dietary patterns during childhood and adolescence is critical because these habits tend to continue into the adult years,” Hermann said. “Learning to make healthy food choices early on can help combat chronic health conditions later.”

Check out OSU Extension’s website for more nutrition information.

MEDIA CONTACT: Trisha Gedon | Agricultural Communications Services | 405-744-3625 | trisha.gedon@okstate.edu

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