If you have a child age newborn to 23 months, March—National Nutrition Month—is the perfect time to alert you to the new 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. For the first time ever, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) issued the updated guidelines to include recommendations for babies and toddlers.
As a registered dietitian for children and adults with bleeding and blood disorders, I work to educate patients on the impact of diet and weight on symptoms and treatment options. It is resoundingly evident—whether a child is born healthy or with a health condition—that starting healthy eating habits at their most impressionable ages has immense long-term benefit.
“The time from birth until a child’s second birthday is a critically important period for proper growth and development,” the guidelines state. “It also is key for establishing healthy dietary patterns that may influence the trajectory of eating behaviors and health throughout the life course. During this period, nutrients critical for brain development and growth must be provided in adequate amounts.”
Key recommendations include:
- For the first 6 months (longer if desired) exclusively feed human milk; continue with (iron fortified) formula up to one year
- If human milk is not available, feed (iron fortified) formula for one year
- Supplement with vitamin D soon after birth
- <10% of calories should come from added sugars and saturated fat beginning at age 2; avoid foods and beverages with added sugars for those under 2 years of age
- <2,300 mg of sodium per day
- At about 6 months, introduce infants to nutrient dense foods
- From 12 months, follow a healthy dietary pattern across the lifespan to meet nutrient needs, help achieve a healthy body weight, and reduce the risk of chronic disease
- Most nutrients should be provided by foods rather than by supplements
The acknowledgement of the importance of early childhood nutrition by the USDA and HSS is a huge step in preparing our children for healthier lives ahead. For more information, visit www.dietaryguidelines.gov or contact your primary care physician for a referral to a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist.
Tina Willis is a Registered Dietitian with the Indiana Hemophilia & Thrombosis Center.