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This week, Daniel Zakowski with ReadySetFood.com is bringing you the latest up to date research on how to start introducing foods to small children and promote good long term health. There have been a lot of changes in recent years related to introducing allergenic food and what foods should be consumed. It can all be very confusing when it comes to dietary guidelines for your kiddos. So I’m happy to share these updates! 

USDA Dietary Guidelines for Families

New USDA Dietary Guidelines

In this quick guide, you will learn how the new Dietary Guidelines report released from the USDA will impact your child’s early nutrition. These include recommendations on how introducing peanut and egg can play an important role in preventing food allergies and support a healthier start for your child.

In this article you’ll learn:

  • What are the new Dietary Guidelines for Americans and what they mean for your family
  • Important new guidelines that are specifically designed for infants and children 0-24 months of age
  • How new research on food allergy prevention has led to new USDA guidelines that recommend introducing peanut and egg to prevent food allergies

Related Read: The Ultimate Guide to Pregnancy Nutrition: Best Foods for Pregnancy

What are the Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA)? 

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) just released the report for the new 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA). This is the fifth edition to be released. Every five years, dietary guidelines are released by the USDA to help guide healthy food choices for Americans.  The Guidelines outline how Americans can improve their eating habits with specific recommendations for nutrient density and food choices.

The 2020 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee is comprised of 20 members and formed by the USDA and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The Committee does an in- depth review of the latest science, research, and public comments to weigh in on each dietary guideline before release. 

Related Article: Foods to Boost the Immune System for New Moms

2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines: What Families Need To Know

USDA Dietary Guidelines for Infants and Toddlers

The 2020-2025 DGA will impact the nutrition and health of millions of American families. Here are the 7 things every family should know about the new guidelines: 

1. Public Comments Will Be Considered

For the first time ever, the USDA sought to encourage transparency by posting for public comment the topics for review at the start of the process to develop the guidelines. 

Amazingly, more than 62,000 comments were submitted before the June 10 deadline. Ultimately, public concerns and recommendations helped guide the final guidelines. 

2. Introducing Guidelines for Pregnancy and Early Childhood (0-24 Month)

There continues to be rising health concerns for children including obesity. The 2020 guidelines will attempt for the first time to provide strong, evidence-based recommendations for pregnant women, infants and young children. In addition, there is increasing evidence that 0-24 months plays an important role in early childhood brain development and overall health. 

“Millions of Americans already use the USDA guidelines to help them make decisions about nutrition and diet. This is really the first time that the guidelines are being given for the 0-2 year age group. So, there’s actually congressional mandate for a guideline for this age range.” – Dr. Katie Marks Cogan, Board Certified Allergist and Chief Allergist for Ready, Set, Food! 

Related Read: 6 Toddler Activities to Keep Them Busy and Learning at Home

3. No Added Sugar for Children Under 2

As part of the new guidelines for babies and toddlers, the 2020-2025 DGA is also recommending no added sugar for infants and children under the age of 2. This helps to address the obesity epidemic that now affects nearly 5 million American children. In fact, the USDA reported that a majority of infants just in the 6-12 month age range had already consumed some amount of added sugars. 

4. Egg and Peanut Introduction for Every Baby

The new USDA guidelines report also recommends feeding babies peanut and egg starting at 4 months of age to prevent food allergies. This change was supported by clinical trials, showing that early introduction of allergenic foods is safe and can help significantly reduce baby’s risk of developing food allergies.

“Introducing peanut and egg in an age appropriate form, in the first year of life (after age 4 months) may reduce the risk of food allergy to these foods.” – USDA 

This important recommendation applies to all babies, underlining the importance of early prevention to help prevent more than 200,000 food allergies annually. To learn more about early allergen introduction and recipes for introducing peanuts, eggs, and milk, visit preventallergies.org

Learn more about the importance of food allergy prevention recommendations from Board-Certified Allergist and Chief Allergist for Ready, Set, Food! Dr. Katie Marks-Cogan:

5. Inconclusive Evidence on Consuming Allergens During Pregnancy

The committee found that “insufficient evidence is available to determine the relationship between peanuts, eggs, or wheat consumed during pregnancy and risk of food allergy in the child.” In other words, the USDA Guidelines outline that there is not enough evidence on eating allergens while pregnant to prevent food allergies. Therefore, early allergen introduction is still the only recommendation for preventing food allergies. 

Related Article: 20 Foods to Avoid During Early Pregnancy

6. Breastfeeding is still encouraged

The USDA found strong evidence that breastfed children may have a reduced risk of being overweight, obese, type 1 diabetic, and asthmatic compared to children who have never been breastfed. Further, the USDA found that the duration of breastfeeding also matters.

The longer children are breastfed, the lesser their chance of developing the chronic diseases just mentioned. However, it is important to note that the “optimal duration of breastfeeding with respect to these outcomes is not well understood”. 

Related Article: Breastfeeding Tips: Problems and Solutions

7. Obesity is a pressing public health concern

More than 70 percent of Americans are overweight or obese. High rates of obesity and being overweight are not only public health problems in and of themselves, but they also drive diet-related chronic diseases, such as “cardiovascular disease (CVD), type 2 diabetes, and some types of cancer” (USDA).  

A quick summary

The 2020 Dietary Guidelines Now include recommendations for children under 2.

Breastfeeding reduces the risk of disease for children later in life. 

Eating allergens during pregnancy has not been found to reduce the risk of food allergies in children.  The Guidelines recommend introducing allergens, such as peanuts and eggs, as early as 4 months of age.

The first 1,000 days of a child’s life are crucial to their long-term health and development of taste preferences and food choices.

Families should encourage healthy food choices, like avoiding added sugars and introducing allergenic foods starting at 4 months, to give their child a head start to a healthy future.   

I’d love to hear, do these new guidelines change any of your plan for feeding your little ones?