Confusion Over How to Make Every Bite Count

Yesterday, we looked at the current set of official suggested eating habits for Americans. This directory is revamped every five years by the Department of Health and Human Services, along with the Department of Agriculture. When first issued, apparently the newest guide seemed so banal and predictable, it was difficult for any reviewer, whether critical or approving, to come up with a hot take.

Last January, Harvard Health Publishing posed a question: “New dietary guidelines: Any changes for infants, children, and teens?” In the first paragraph, Claire McCarthy, M.D., wrote, “Babies and toddlers are included for the first time,” so that would count as a change. Among the disadvantages of careless eating, obesity is named the first-rank consequence:

Right now, 40% of children are overweight or obese, and research shows that they are likely to stay that way or get worse. Since children rely on parents and caregivers for their food, this is on us. We literally have their lives in our hands.

There is a very useful suggestion to parents, to take small steps, like eliminating one unhealthful treat at a time from the shopping list.

For those in the field

A more professionally-oriented article was published by the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP), an editorial piece titled “Translating the 2020–2025 U.S. Dietary Guidelines into Clinical Practice.” It begins by noting that the whole question of what to eat is “remarkably contentious and fraught with strongly held personal beliefs and preferences, as well as substantial financial and disease implications.”

The AAFP authors pointed out the pros and cons of the reconstituted Guidelines:

The current report’s strengths include the addition of dietary patterns for infants and toddlers, pregnant and breastfeeding patients, and older adults, and user-friendly images and text…

One new recommendation is that infants exclusively consume human milk for the first six months of life with continued consumption of human milk in addition to complementary foods at least through the first year.

There were also weaknesses:

Compared with the scientific literature, the updated guidelines overemphasize the importance of consuming dairy and animal-based proteins such as beef, pork, and chicken, while underemphasizing the importance of consuming whole grains and completely avoiding the discussion of minimally processed grains.

One suggestion seems like it would need to be closely monitored by a medical professional, rather than attempted by parents without backup:

There is an official recommendation to introduce potentially allergenic foods (i.e., peanuts, eggs, cow’s milk products, tree nuts, wheat, crustacean shellfish, fish, and soy) starting at six months to prevent development of food allergies.

The piece goes on to make the point that traditional physician training in the United States places very little emphasis on nutrition. The reason for this neglect is an eternal mystery. Medical professionals specialize in the body’s various systems and parts but seem to nurture a blind spot a mile wide, about this one very basic matter. Every bit of every body is made out of food. If not for food, not one part, organ, or limb would even be there.

Experts tell people what type of fuel to put in their different kinds of vehicles, or risk the deterioration and ruination of the car or truck in question. And the people listen! If only we would pay a similar amount of attention to what we put into our bodies!

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “New dietary guidelines: Any changes for infants, children, and teens?,” Harvard.edu, 01/26/21
Source: “Translating the 2020–2025 U.S. Dietary Guidelines into Clinical Practice,” AAFP.org, November 2021
Image by Kyle Pearce/CC BY-SA 2.0

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OVERWEIGHT: What Kids Say explores the obesity problem from the often-overlooked perspective of children struggling with being overweight.

About Dr. Robert A. Pretlow

Dr. Robert A. Pretlow is a pediatrician and childhood obesity specialist. He has been researching and spreading awareness on the childhood obesity epidemic in the US for more than a decade.
You can contact Dr. Pretlow at:

Presentations

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the American Society of Animal Science 2020 Conference
What’s Causing Obesity in Companion Animals and What Can We Do About It

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the World Obesity Federation 2019 Conference:
Food/Eating Addiction and the Displacement Mechanism

Dr. Pretlow’s Multi-Center Clinical Trial Kick-off Speech 2018:
Obesity: Tackling the Root Cause

Dr. Pretlow’s 2017 Workshop on
Treatment of Obesity Using the Addiction Model

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation for
TEC and UNC 2016

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the 2015 Obesity Summit in London, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s invited keynote at the 2014 European Childhood Obesity Group Congress in Salzburg, Austria.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2013 European Congress on Obesity in Liverpool, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2011 International Conference on Childhood Obesity in Lisbon, Portugal.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2010 Uniting Against Childhood Obesity Conference in Houston, TX.

Food & Health Resources