On Tuesday the USDA released new dietary guidelines for 2020-2025. Here are 7 takeaways you can implement into your family's lifestyle starting today!
1. Many children are not getting the nutrition they need
The USDA created the Healthy Eating Index (HEI) to measure the extent to which a diet meets its dietary guidelines, with 100 being the healthiest diet and 0 being the worst. The average American diet has a score of 59, with toddlers (ages 2-4) having a score of only 61. Because of these poor diets, the average American’s health is worsening, with obesity at all-time highs and heart disease as the leading cause of death. 40% of children and adolescents are either overweight or obese, 210,000 have diabetes. The lesson here - it's never too early to start your child's healthy eating habit.
2. The vast majority of kids eat too much salt and added sugars
96% of children ages 2 to 4 exceed the recommended sodium intake. By consuming this much salt at a young age, the child develops a preference for salty foods, which can last for the rest of their lives. The story is similar for added sugars, which 78.5% of children ages 2 to 4 consume too much of. Added sugars will develop a similar sweet tooth, which contributes to overconsumption of sugar and possible obesity.
3. More than just nutritious, make your meals nutrient-dense
Nutrient-dense foods have many vitamins, minerals, fatty acids, et cetera per calorie while being low in sodium, saturated fat, and added sugars. Some examples of nutrient-dense foods are:
- Whole grains
- Unsalted nuts and seeds
- Fat-free and low-fat dairy products
- Lean meats and poultry
Note that these foods are only considered nutrient-dense when prepared with no or little added sugars, saturated fat, and sodium.
An example of a deceiving non-nutrient-dense food is frosted mini-wheats. Though the mini-wheats contain good whole grains, the frosted sugars add empty calories, making the cereal calorically excessive in proportion to its nutrition.
4. Diversify their plate
It is important that your child’s diet be varied—not just chicken nuggets and grilled cheese. This not only ensures you meet all your child’s nutritional needs but also widens their palette so that they will be more willing to try foods later in life.
5. Is your kid picky? Keep trying!
It can take up to 10 exposures to a new food for an infant to accept a new food type. Repeatedly offer new foods or mix them in with foods your child already enjoys, and they will likely (eventually) accept them.
6. Forget the EpiPen. Feed your child allergenic foods early
The USDA recommends that, with their doctor's approval, parents feed their children after 6 months food that can often cause allergic reactions like peanuts, shellfish, and dairy. By exposing your child to these foods early, they will be less likely to develop allergies later in life.
7. Make sure they get enough vegetables, whole grains, and seafood
The average American diet is lagging in its consumption of every category of vegetables, as well as in whole grains and seafood. Vegetables provide important nutrients like potassium and dietary fiber while being low in calories. Whole grains contain iron and zinc, essential for neurological development and growth. Seafood contains omega fatty acids, which are necessary for rapid brain development.
Cub Pantry offers nutrient-dense snacks with low sodium, added sugars, and saturated fats; and high protein, fiber, vitamins, and minerals.
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