The New Dietary Guidelines: Feeding Infants and Toddlers

ISU Extension and Outreach offers training for child care providers

March 3, 2021, 9:37 am | Sara Sprouse, Cathy Drost, Ann Parker, Vera Stokes

baby in high chair being fed blended food by alice_photo/, Iowa – For 40 years the Dietary Guidelines for Americans have provided science-based guidance on what to eat and drink to promote health, reduce risk of chronic disease and meet nutrient needs. However, for the first time the guidelines now include recommendations by life stage, from birth through older adulthood, note nutrition and wellness specialists with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach.

Each stage of life is distinct and has unique nutrition needs, which affect health and disease risk, noted Ann Parker. The time from birth until a child’s second birthday is a critically important period for proper growth and development.

“Ultimately, these early experiences with food influence food and beverage choices later in life,” Parker said.  

Introducing foods to complement breast- or bottle-feeding is particularly critical, Parker continued. Solid foods, or complementary feeding, should be introduced when the infant is developmentally ready. This typically occurs between four and six months of age, not before four or after six months of age. Complementary feeding sets the stage for establishing a healthy dietary pattern and transitioning to a healthy family diet by age two.  

What many people don’t know is the risk for developing food allergies is also influenced by the introduction of complementary foods, said Sara Sprouse. Potentially allergenic foods, such as peanuts, eggs and tree nuts, should be introduced at the same time as other complementary foods – between four and six months.

“There is no evidence that delaying introduction of allergenic foods, beyond when other complementary foods are introduced, helps prevent a food allergy,” Sprouse said.

Child care providers may not be aware of new recommendations for introducing complementary foods in infants, Parker and Sprouse noted. ISU Extension and Outreach provides continuing education opportunities for child care providers and this spring, two training opportunities focus on food allergies and food jags.  

Just a Bite: Managing Food Allergies in Child Care will be offered twice, March 30 and April 1 at 6:30 p.m. This session will focus on common food allergens for children and signs and symptoms of an allergic reaction. Nutrition and wellness specialists Sara Sprouse and Cathy Drost will share strategies and practical skills to provide an allergen-safe and healthy care environment for children. For more information or to register, contact Sprouse at or 319-293-3039 or Drost at or 641-673-5841.

I Only Want a Peanut Butter Sandwich will be offered twice, April 19 and April 21 at 6:30 p.m. Nutrition and wellness specialists Ann Parker and Vera Stokes will discuss eating habits that are normal for young children, strategies that promote healthy eating habits and how to foster pleasant mealtime experiences. Participants will learn strategies and practical skills to provide a healthy care environment for picky eaters. For more information or to register, contact Parker at or 515-204-3397 or Stokes at or 563-210-0587.

The cost is $5 per session and all child care providers in the home daycare, community daycare and pre-school settings are welcome to attend. All trainings are approved by the Iowa Department of Human Services and Child and Adult Care Food Program for Childcare Professional Development credit (2 hours). Enrollment must be completed in I-Power at with the fee submitted online.

Photo credit: alice_photo/

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