The 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines provides recommendations for infants and toddlers, an age group not included since the 1985 edition.
Good nutrition during the first years of life is vital for proper growth and development and as a foundation for lifelong healthy eating habits. There is moderate or strong evidence that healthy eating from birth to 23 months can result in:
- Lower risk of overweight and obesity
- Lower risk of type 1 diabetes
- Adequate iron status and lower risk of iron deficiency
- Lower risk of peanut allergy
- Lower risk of asthma
Little ones have big nutrient needs, so it’s important to Make Every Bite Count.
Key Recommendations – Birth to 23 months
Breastmilk: If possible, infants should be exclusively breastfed for the first six months of life. Breastfeeding should continue through at least the first year of life, and longer if desired.
Infant formula: When breastfeeding is not possible, infants should be fed iron-fortified infant formula for the first year of life.
Vitamin D: Infants who breastfeed exclusively or supplement breastmilk with infant formula should be given 400 IU of vitamin D per day, starting soon after birth.
Solid (complementary) foods: At about 6 months, start introducing nutrient-dense solid foods that are age- and developmentally-appropriate. Most infants are not ready for solids before 4 months (see Is Baby Ready for Solids?).
Potentially allergenic foods: Peanuts, dairy, eggs, tree nuts, wheat, shellfish, fish, and soy should be introduced along with other solid foods, starting at about 6 months. There is no evidence that delaying these foods will prevent food allergies. However, there are special recommendations for infants at high risk of peanut allergy (see Peanut Allergy?).
Variety: Offer a variety of age- and developmentally-appropriate foods from all food groups. For exclusively breastfed infants, foods rich in iron and zinc are particularly important.
Avoid: Infants and toddlers should not have foods or beverages that contain added sugars or are higher in sodium.
But wait, there's more! Don't miss Make Every Bite Count: Infants and Toddlers Part Two!
By Hollis Bass, MEd, RD, LD
Source: U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020-2025. 9th Edition. December 2020. Available at DietaryGuidelines.gov.
Stephanie Ronco has been editing for Food and Health Communications since 2011. She graduated from Colorado College magna cum laude with distinction in Comparative Literature. She was elected a member of Phi Beta Kappa in 2008.