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The USDA Has Released Updated Nutritional Guidelines for Babies

"USDA and HHS have expanded this edition of the dietary guidelines to provide new guidance for infants, toddlers, and pregnant and breastfeeding women, helping all Americans to improve their health, no matter their age or life stage."
ByNehal Aggarwal
Associate Editor
Published
February 11, 2021
collage of nutritional foods for baby, including, eggs, pecans, peanuts and cheese
Image: Shutterstock / The Bump

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Health and Human Services (HHS) have updated their 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines, initially released in July 2020—and it has a few changes when it comes to babies and kids.

According to the updated guidelines, babies should be introduced to “nutrient dense” and “potentially allergenic foods” at 6 months old (in some cases as young as 4 months old). This includes peanuts, eggs, cow’s milk products, tree nuts, wheat, soy, shellfish and other kinds of fish along with other complementary foods. The hope is that the early introduction will help reduce their risk of developing a food allergy.

Additionally, the guidelines recommend babies are provided supplemental vitamin D soon after they are born, as breast milk often doesn’t provide enough on its own. Other nutrients babies and toddlers should be getting enough of, particularly those who are fed breast milk, are iron and zinc.

The guidelines also say babies as young as 6-months-old and pregnant women should eat more seafood, carefully choosing options that are low in mercury. “Seafood intake during pregnancy is recommended, as it is associated with favorable measures of cognitive development in young children,” the guidelines state.

Overall, the broadest guideline is that Americans at all life stages eat a healthy diet and that babies and toddlers are encouraged to try a variety of foods from all food groups.

“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,” Alex Azar, HHS Secretary, said in a statement. “USDA and HHS have expanded this edition of the dietary guidelines to provide new guidance for infants, toddlers, and pregnant and breastfeeding women, helping all Americans to improve their health, no matter their age or life stage.”

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