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Dietary Guidelines Now Include Recommendations for All Stages of Life

“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food”- Hippocrates

Newly released dietary guidelines for Americans

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) have released their health guidelines for the years 2020-2025. Substantial research over the decades has shown that having a healthy dietary pattern help us achieve and maintain good health as well as minimize the risks of chronic diseases throughout our lifetimes.superfoods3-1

Eating patterns in the United States have remained suboptimal when it comes to following the recommended health guidelines. Over the past 20 years, poor dietary trends have lead to a swift rise in diet-related chronic diseases. Roughly 60% of adults have at least one chronic disease that can be traced back to their diet.

Although it is never too late to start a healthy dietary pattern, dietary preferences developed at an early stage in life can influence the food and beverage choices we make later in life, and in turn, affect the level of risk we have in acquiring dietary-related diseases. With the release of healthy dietary guidelines for all stages of life, now including infants and toddlers, it is time to make sure that we set our children up for healthy, disease free lives.

Infants and toddlers

Proper nutrition during the first two years of a child's life is critical for ideal growth and brain development. At such a young age, children can only consume so much, so it is ever more important to make sure that what they do eat, counts. 

For the first six months of life it is recommended that you exclusively feed the infants human milk or iron-fortified infant formula, along with supplemental vitamin D. At about the six month mark, begin to introduce nutrient dense complimentary foods into their diets ranging from all food groups. louis-hansel-shotsoflouis-ucY_-U1dM8U-unsplash

The addition of nutrients from these new foods to their diet will promote proper brain development and growth, as well as offer an opportunity to test potentially allergenic foods before they become an issue. 

 

Recommended groups/types:

  • Vegetables of all types
  • Whole fruits
  • Whole grains
  • Fat-free and low fat dairy or fortified soy beverage alternatives
  • Lean meats, eggs, beans, soy, and nuts as proteins
  • Vegetable oils or oils from nuts and seafood

Recommended to avoid:

  • Foods and beverages with added sugars
  • Foods and beverages with high sodium levels
  • Honey
  • Unpasteurized foods and beverages
  • Caffeine

(quantity changes based on daily caloric intake: see pages 64 - 66)

Children and adolescence

As toddlers enter into the child and adolescent stages of their lives, setting proper dietary health patterns becomes even more important. Currently, standard dietary patterns have been unsatisfactory to the needs of these growing bodies. Poor nutrition, along with little physical activity, has lead to obesity in childhood as well as the rise in risk of developing chronic disease later in life. Adhering to the new guidelines and changing the trajectory of poor dietary patterns during these years is crucial to set the children up for success as they enter into their adult years.rainbow-vegetables-and-fruit

Supporting healthy eating at this stage is a team effort. As these children transition between home and school or childcare centers, consistency is key to form healthy dietary patterns. By exposing children to nutrient rich foods and beverages at all meals (including snacks), healthy dietary patterns can take hold. 

Recommended groups/types:

  • Vegetables of all types
  • Whole fruits
  • Whole grains
  • Fat-free and low fat dairy or fortified soy beverage alternatives
  • Lean meats, eggs, beans, soy, and nuts as proteins
  • Vegetable oils or oils from nuts and seafood

Recommended to avoid:

  • Foods and beverages with added sugars
  • Foods and beverages with high sodium levels
  • Foods and beverages with saturated fats

(quantity changes based on daily caloric intake: see pages 74 - 86)

Supporting healthy eating

It can never be too early or even too late to start a healthy diet. Setting our children on the right course from the start is more important now than ever. With fresh guidance from the USDA and HHS, preschools and childcare centers can prime the palates and brains of children to enjoy nutritious and healthy foods for the rest of their lives.

Programs such as the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) help make eating healthy a priority by offering reimbursements to help subsidize childcare centers that provide their kids with meals that contain nutrient rich foods to promote wellness and healthy growth. beef_teriyaki_plated

At Smart Lunches, we take pride in the variety of hearty, nutrient rich foods that we serve. With menus curated to meet CACFP and USDA guidelines, our meals are a simple step forward in creating a healthy dietary routine for your children. With a diverse selection of meals that are delivered fresh daily to your doors, Smart Lunches provides classics such as Mac & Cheese and Pasta with Meat Sauce alongside more adventurous selections, like Lentil Bolognese and Curry Chicken with Veggies.

It is never too early to start a healthy routine. If you would like to discuss how Smart Lunches can bring more variety in healthy and nutritious meals to your center, click here.


1. U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020-2025. 9th Edition. December 2020.