New dietary guidelines for infants and toddlers



New USDA dietary guidelines are out – and for the first time include the needs of infants and toddlers.

Dietary guidelines are updated every five years to help people know what they should eat and drink to meet nutrient needs, promote health, and prevent disease.

Jade Elliott spoke with Alyssa Scordo, RDN, Intermountain Healthcare, to discuss the new guidelines and how parents should handle sugars and potentially allergenic foods.

This is the first time the guidelines have been differentiated for life stages, from birth to older adulthood, including pregnancy and lactation, said Alyssa Scordo, a registered dietitian nutritionist for Intermountain Healthcare.

“It’s never too early or too late to implement healthy eating – that’s what these new guidelines tell us,” Scordo said. “Introducing infants and toddlers to healthy foods can make a difference in their health and wellbeing throughout their lives.”

Research shows an individual’s eating habits have the greatest impact on their health. Nationally, more than half of all adults have one or more preventable chronic diseases, many of which are related to poor diets and not enough physical activity. Childhood obesity continues to rise, with about one-fifth of children clinically obese nationwide.

Here’s what the new “Make Every Bite Count” dietary guidelines say for infants and toddlers:

Birth to 6 months: Exclusively feed infants human milk and continue through at least the first year of life. If human milk is not possible, feed infants iron-fortified formula during the first year of life. Provide supplemental Vitamin D soon after birth.

At 6 months: Introduce nutrient-dense complementary foods, and a variety of foods from all food groups. Include foods rich in iron and zinc, particularly for infants fed human milk.

Start introducing allergenic foods, such as peanuts, egg, cow milk products, tree nuts, wheat, shellfish, fish and soy. Introducing peanut-containing foods, for example, reduces the risk that an infant will develop an allergy to peanuts. For infants at high risk of peanut allergy, introduce peanut-containing foods between 4-6 months of age.

Hold off on giving babies foods and drinks with added sugar, and limit foods high in sodium.

At 12 months: Toddlers should consume between 700-1,000 calories per day through age 23 months, in a variety of food groups:

  • Vegetables (2/3 cup to 1 cup)
  •  Fruits (1/2 cup to 1 cup)
  • Grains (3 ounces, half of which are whole grains)
  •  Dairy (1 2/3 cup to 2 cups)
  •  Protein (2 ounces)
  •  Oils (1/2 tablespoon)

It’s also important to avoid added sugar and limit foods high in sodium. Juice should be 100 percent fruit juice, and limited to 4 ounces per day.

Here are a few simple changes to help toddlers eat healthier:

  • Replace sugary cereals with cereals containing minimal added sugar.
  •  Replace fried vegetables with roasted vegetables.
  •  Replace sugary fruit products with fruit canned in 100 percent juice.
  •  Replace high-sodium meats, like hotdogs, with lean ground meats.
  •  Choose unsweetened beverages over sugary drinks.

“Everyone, even young children, can benefit from making changes to what they consume to help build a healthy diet,” Scordo said. “Giving children healthy foods early on will help them make better food choices as an adult, and hopefully, help them to live happier, healthier lives.”

The Baby Your Baby program provides many resources for all pregnant women and new moms in Utah. There is also expert advice from the Utah Department of Health and Intermountain Healthcare that air each week on KUTV 2News.

For more information: intermountainhealthcare.org.


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