AUSTIN (KXAN) — Every five years, a committee of nutrition experts and doctors gives science-based advice to The U.S Department of Agriculture on dietary guidelines that eventually shape school lunch programs and benefits to help food-insecure families.
For the first time since 1980, the committee focused on dietary guidelines for infants and toddlers under two years old.
“What a baby eats when they are six months of age, and beyond breast milk, really makes a difference,” said Dr. Steven Abrams, the chair of the American Academy of Pediatrics committee on nutrition. He is not on the federal committee but agrees with the recommendations.
The committee found “a growing body of evidence made it increasingly clear that proper nutrition during the earliest stages of life was critical to support healthy growth and development during childhood.”
One suggestion was that babies and toddlers eat meat as well as poultry, seafood and eggs for iron, zinc and choline needs.
“Iron is very important and meat is a great source of iron for babies,” Dr. Abrams said. He says iron is critical for a baby’s brain which rapidly develops, and is especially needed during early infancy into childhood.
For families uncomfortable introducing meat into a baby’s diet, Dr. Abrams suggests iron drops, but they are not the best form of iron, he says. Parents can look for iron fortified cereals in the baby food aisle, as well.
The committee recommends that children younger than two years old consume no added sugars. The U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Department of Health and Human Services will review the advice and issue final guidelines by the end of the year.