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December 29, 2020

New U.S. dietary guidelines may alter a memorable first birthday tradition

The recommendations advise no cake for children under age 2

Healthy Eating Children's Health
Toddlers Cake Guidelines Source/Image licensed from Ingram Image

New U.S. dietary guidelines recommend children younger than age two no longer be given any foods with added sugar, including cake and candy.

One of the most photographed moments at a child's first birthday party is the little cherub face covered in cake and icing. 

This may change now that new U.S. dietary guidelines recommend children do not eat cake or candy until they turn two years old. 

The dietary guidelines are revised by the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Health and Human Services every five years. The latest edition's biggest changes apply to the youngest Americans.

The recommendations now suggest that infants are breastfed for at least six months and that children younger than two are not given foods with added sugar, including cake and candy.

After age two, both sugar and saturated fats should each be limited to less than 10% of the child's daily calories, the guidelines say. Sodium intake should be less than 2,300 milligrams — even for children younger than age 14.

The guidelines also emphasize that even healthy Americans can benefit from healthier dietary patterns, noting healthy eating is vital for all stages of life — from infancy to older adulthood.

The core elements of a healthy dietary pattern include vegetables, fruits, grain, dairy and protein foods, including lean meats, poultry, seafood, nuts and certain oils. Half of the grain consumed should be whole grain. 

The recommendations for alcohol intake have remained the same — no more than two drinks a day for men and one a day for women — despite an advisory committee suggesting in July that men and women would benefit from drinking no more than one alcoholic beverage per day. The committee also advocated for a lower percentage — 6% — of added sugar consumption after age two.

The government uses these dietary guidelines to set standards for school lunches and other programs.

"Using the new edition of the Dietary Guidelines, we hope Americans can find ways to 'Start Simple' and incorporate modest changes each day that push Americans closer to meeting the recommendations," Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue and HHS Secretary Alex M. Azar II wrote in a statement.

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