Dietary guidelines require that infants, toddlers under the age of 2 years do not add sugar

Parents now have an extra reason to say no to sweets, cakes and ice cream for young children. The first U.S. nutrition guidelines for babies and toddlers issued Tuesday recommend feeding only breast milk for at least six months and no sugar for children younger than 2 years.

“It’s never too early to start,” said Barbara Schneeman, a nutritionist at the University of California, Davis. “You have to make every bite count in those early years.”

The guidelines do not adhere to two important recommendations from scientists who advise the government. The advisers said in July that everyone should limit their added sugar intake to less than 6 percent of calories, and men should limit alcohol to one drink a day.

Instead, adhere to previous guidelines:

  • Limit added sugar to less than 10 percent of calories per day after age 2.
  • And men should limit alcohol to no more than two drinks a day, twice as much as women recommend.

“I do not think we are done with alcohol,” Schneeman said. He chaired a committee advising the government on the guidelines. “We need to learn more.”

The nutrition guidelines are issued every five years by the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Health and Human Services. The government uses it to set standards for school lunches and other programs. Some highlights:

The introduction of peanuts, other allergens for babies

According to the guidelines, babies should only have breast milk until they reach 6 months. If breast milk is not available, they should get iron-fortified baby formula in the first year. Babies should receive supplemental vitamin D shortly after birth.

Babies can start eating other foods for about 6 months, and they should be introduced to possible allergenic foods along with other foods.

“The introduction of peanut-containing foods in the first year reduces the risk that a baby will develop a food allergy to peanuts,” the guidelines read.

There is more advice than in previous guidelines for pregnant and breastfeeding women. To promote healthy brain development in their babies, these women should eat 8 to 12 ounces of seafood a week. They need to be sure that they choose fish – such as cod, salmon, sardines and tilapia – with lower levels of mercury, which can harm children’s nervous systems.

Pregnant women should not drink alcohol according to the guidelines and women who are breastfeeding should be careful. Caffeine in moderate amounts seems safe and women can discuss it with their doctors.

Sources of added sugars

Most Americans do not follow the best advice on nutrition, which contributes to obesity, heart disease and diabetes. Many of the new advice sounds familiar: load your plate with fruits and vegetables and cut back on sweets, saturated fats and sodium.

The guidelines suggest making small changes that add up: Replace ordinary chopped wheat with ripe grain. Choose black wet beans with canned wet. Drink sparkling water instead of soda.

There’s an app to help people follow the guidelines available on the Government’s My Plate website.

The largest sources of added sugars in the typical American diet are:

  • Soda and other sugary drinks
  • desserts, snacks, sweets
  • sweetened coffee and tea

These foods contribute very little nutrition, so the guidelines give limits.

There is information on added sugar on the label “Nutrition Facts” on packaged foods. Information on saturated fats and sodium is also on the label.