Finally, USDA includes infants and kids in dietary guidelines

Post by Nancy E. Roman, President and CEO, PHA (@nancyroman1)

Image of toddler eating broccoli and vegetables

The government has wisely decided to expand the dietary guidelines to 2020 to infants and toddlers – a long overdue step. (Washington Post: What to feed your baby? New dietary guidelines weigh in on pregnant women, infants, and young children)

The move is important because humans are born with a natural predisposition to sweet (high-density) foods, a predilection that—if reinforced—can set the stage for unhealthy eating habits and childhood obesity. Furthermore, dietary habits and patterns and even a child’s palate develop by the age of two. So, if we want to influence a lifetime of habits, an early start matters.

PHA announced an exciting new partnership this week at its annual Summit with Sprout Foods. The company has agreed to:

  • Ensure that 50 percent of all its pouch purees have vegetables as a leading ingredient,
  • Continue leading the industry in ensuring that 100% of its pouch purees portfolio will have no added sugars (no sugar and no fruit juice), and
  • Launch a campaign educating parents of the importance of early palate development

But, Sprout CEO Rick Klauser was explaining to me that adding vegetables takes ingenuity. Parents want to like the taste of the food – and hence prefer sweet fruits to not-as-sweet vegetables. You can expect to see a wave of innovation in the early childhood foods segment as leaders such as Sprout are finding ways to beat the body’s natural bias toward sweet foods. (I tried Sprout’s sweet potato puffs with cinnamon and it is remarkable how little sweetness there is and how good they are).

For those of us who have been working to reduce excess weight among children and the many diseases that are later associated with it – diabetes, heart disease, cancer – we need to step up the conversation about early childhood. These expanded dietary guidelines are a welcome acknowledgment of the importance of infant and toddler nutrition and reaffirms that from the earliest age, we need need to consider the influence food can have at every stage of life.