Every five years the Department of Health and Human Services and the Agriculture Department issue dietary guidelines for Americans. As anyone working in the food industry knows, this process is lengthy and often full of vigorous debate about what guidance Americans should be given to help address an epidemic in chronic diseases, such as obesity and diabetes.
As the process for 2020 kicked off earlier this month, discussion has focused on how the dietary guidelines can target those chronic diseases earlier than ever before. For the first time, the 2020 dietary guidelines may provide specific recommendations for pregnant women, infants and young children.
“There was a time when we did not view 0 to 2 as a target for obesity prevention,” said Lorrene Ritchie, a nutrition and nutrition policy specialist in Berkeley, Calif. “We felt young children were much better at self-regulating. Obesity is the canary in the coal mine for health. It’s kind of like the climate change of public health.”
While any such guidelines will likely seek to counteract the impact of the marketing of unhealthy foods to children, a positive nutrition message would undoubtedly also be well received.
We have been working with pediatric professionals for nearly two decades, and they consistently tell us that parents of young children are eager for detailed, trustworthy guidance on what to feed their children. Parents want to ensure not only that their children are consuming a diet conducive to meeting developmental milestones, but also one that sets a foundation for healthy eating as they grow into adulthood.
It will be fascinating to watch the 2020 dietary guidelines develop—and to see if the committee is ultimately successful in developing evidence-based guidelines for children. If they are successful, educating parents about those guidelines will be critical, and pediatric professionals should be a fundamental part of that effort.