Feature post Nutrition

New dietary guidelines change thinking on food allergies, sugar intake

Less added sugar, infant recommendations mark changes

New dietary guidelines for the first time, give guidance to parents wondering what to feed their infants. The guidelines come from a new report from the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC), which convenes every five years, and advises the federal government on the official Dietary Guidelines. The Advisory Report aims to inform the government on the scientific evidence related to diet and nutrition. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) jointly write the Dietary Guidelines, which are due out by the end of 2020.

Added sugar in any foods–from fruit punches to candy–is now on the official no-no list for children under two.

Parents advised to feed infants, eggs, peanuts and no added sugar

For the first time, the DGAC report offered nutrition guidance and feeding advice for babies under two years old. The committee found that introducing eggs, peanuts, and other foods that cause sensitivities in the first year of life may reduce the risk of food allergies to these foods. Also, feeding children under 2 years old a variety of “adult foods” may have a positive influence on their habits and tastes later in life. In addition, in the first 24 months of life, infants should avoid all added sugar. That means skipping fruit punch and other sugar-sweetened foods. For the first time new parents finally have official recommendations to go by. I support introducing foods like eggs and nuts at a young age.

Parents are now encouraged to introduce their children to possible allergy-inducing foods at a young age.

 

Parents with food-allergy children advise caution

Not everyone is ready to pass the peanuts. Tracy Bush, an allergy consultant with Nutrimom and frequent Smart Lifebites contributor, thinks parents should exercise caution. “The recommendation of introducing allergenic foods to infants and children under the age of two is a very personal choice and should be considered with your child’s best interest at heart,” Bush says. When looking at the studies showing adding allergens early may reduce the potential for developing food allergies, there are a few factors that should be taken into consideration as well, she says. For instance, parents have reported their children developing food allergies with both earlier and later food introduction. “Make your own choices on what you feel is safest as a parent, not what is being used as a broad label for all children.”

Fighting Diabetes and Heart Disease with Diet

Overall, the report addresses the big issues facing Americans, mainly obesity and the health issues associated with it. With more than 70 percent of Americans are overweight, 6 in 10 Americans have a chronic health condition such as cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and some types of cancer, and 4 in 10 Americans have 2 or more chronic conditions. Various factors contribute to the prevalence of these chronic diseases, namely, an unhealthy diet and a lack of exercise. The report states that “the typical diet Americans consume result in overconsumption of energy (calories), saturated fats, sodium, added sugars, and for some consumers, alcoholic beverages. Intakes of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains are lower than current recommendations.”

Overall, the key messages are similar to the previous Dietary Guidelines. Here are some of the key takeaways and some notable differences from the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines.

The guidelines urge Americans to eat less of the classic fast food diet, which lacks fiber and plant-based nutrients, and is rich in sodium, sugar and processed meats.

Eat more fruits, veggies, legumes and whole grains, less red and processed meat

Like the previous Dietary Guidelines, the report suggests eating a diet rich in plant-based foods with more vegetables, fruits, legumes, whole grains, low- or nonfat dairy, lean meat and poultry, seafood, nuts, and unsaturated vegetable oils. Dietary patterns rich in these foods are associated with positive health outcomes. It also advises cutting back on red and processed meats, sugar-sweetened foods and beverages, and refined grains because eating more of these foods is associated with negative health outcomes. The report continues to recommend polyunsaturated or monounsaturated over saturated fats. That means, swap your butter for olive oil. Saturated fat intake should be limited to less than of 10 percent of total calories for adults and children ages 2 years and older.

Stop at one: The number of recommended drinks per day for men fell to one from two.

Drink no more than one alcoholic beverage daily

Previous versions of the Dietary Guidelines recommended that women limit themselves to one drink a day and men limit themselves to two drinks per day. It defines a drink as a 12-ounce bottle of beer, a five-ounce glass of wine, or a 1.5-ounce shot of liquor. The new report lowers that for men to drink no more than one alcoholic beverage per day. The recommendation for women stays the same. Sorry folks, but drinking less alcohol is better for good health than more drinking more alcohol.

Sugar sweetened beverages of any kind, from soda to coffee and energy drinks,  are one of the leading culprits of Americans’ soaring sugar intake.

Limit added sugar

Sugar is also targeted in the report. It advises Americans to restrict added sugar to no more than 6 percent of total calories, down from 10 percent. Added sugars make up on average 13 percent of our daily energy intake coming primarily from several foods. “Nearly 70 percent of added sugars intake comes from 5 food categories: sugar sweetened beverages (SSB), desserts and sweet snacks, coffee and tea (with their additions), candy and sugars, and breakfast cereals and bars,” the report says. “Evidence suggests that adverse effects of added sugars, particularly from SSB, may contribute to unhealthy weight gain and obesity-related health outcomes.”

The sugars in fruit and dairy are what I call “nutritious simple carbohydrates” and do not count as added sugar. So, fruit lovers, you don’t need to worry about the sugar from your berries or melon. There are NO benefits to added sugar at all; so less is best.

Lisa R. Young 

Lisa R. Young, PhD, RDN, is an internationally recognized nutritionist, portion size expert, and adjunct professor of nutrition at New York University. Dr. Young is the author of Finally Full, Finally Slim: 30 Days to Permanent Weight Loss One Portion at Time and The Portion Teller Plan.  She has been counseling clients for more than 20 years, blogs at www.drlisayoung.com, and inspires her community to make healthy food and lifestyle choices. Read her most recent Smart Lifebites story: “What Can Superfoods Do For Your Health.”