Infants and toddlers will take center stage during National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month as NCCOR publishes a new factsheet about the Healthy Eating Index (HEI). For the first time, the recently released HEI highlights the unique dietary needs of young children.
Created by the National Cancer Institute and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the HEI measures how closely foods adhere to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans’ (DGA) recommendations. The updated HEI includes two scoring systems: HEI-2020 for children and adults aged 2 years and older and HEI-Toddlers-2020. The new versions address a need identified by the 2020 DGA Committee to have a scoring system for infants and toddlers. Until now, HEI-scoring was only possible for those aged 2 years and older.
NCCOR collaborated with the HEI’s authors to develop a summary factsheet describing the latest changes and the need for a separate toddler version. Both systems address 13 measures of dietary quality, but young children have smaller calorie constraints appropriate for their age group. As a result, the 2020-2025 DGAs introduced a new USDA Dietary Pattern for toddlers aged 12 through 23 months, spurring the need for a new HEI system.
Other notable differences in the HEI-Toddlers-2020 include:
- A recommendation that children in this age group avoid all added sugars
- No recommendation to limit saturated fats to less than 10% of energy intake
- Recommendations for complementary foods and beverages for children who no longer receive human milk or infant formula. If toddlers are still receiving these foods, the HEI-Toddlers-2020 score should be calculated without energy or nutrient contributions from these foods.
The 2020-2025 DGA did not include a USDA Dietary Pattern for infants under 12 months, so no HEI was developed for this age group.
NCCOR’s new HEI factsheet is part of our special focus on the needs of young children during National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month. Follow us on social media, as we will showcase how NCCOR can help conduct research for this population. For additional tools and resources visit: