Grain Foods in US Infants are Associated with Greater Nutrient Intakes, Improved Diet Quality and Increased Consumption of Recommended Food Groups.Nutrients. 2019 Nov 20; 11(12)N
There are limited data providing guidance on grain foods as part of a healthy dietary pattern in infants and may represent a gap in knowledge for the development of the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans Scientific Advisory Committee report currently in progress. An analysis using infant data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey was conducted to assess grain food relationships with nutrient and energy intakes, diet quality, and food group consumption in infant consumers relative to non-consumers. Grain consumers were defined as infants consuming foods from the main grain food group, as defined by the US Department of Agriculture, and included whole and refined/enriched grains. All infants consuming grain foods had greater energy (kcal) vs. grain non-consumers (p's < 0.0047). While infant grain consumers 6- to 12-months-old (N = 942) had higher daily intakes of sodium and added and total sugars, these infants also had significantly higher dietary fiber, calcium, folate, potassium, magnesium, zinc, phosphorus, choline, thiamin, riboflavin, and vitamin B6 compared to non-consumers. In 13- to 23-month-olds (N = 1668), grain consumption was associated with greater daily dietary fiber, iron, zinc, magnesium, phosphorus, folate, riboflavin, niacin, thiamin, vitamin A, vitamin B6, and vitamin B12 relative to non-consumers. Diet quality scores were significantly higher in all infant grain consumers examined in comparison to non-consumers (p's < 0.0065). Grain intake was also linked with greater daily intake of several recommended food groups in both younger and older infants versus non-consumption of grains. The current analysis provides evidence to substantiate the inclusion of whole and enriched grain foods as part of the infant dietary pattern as beneficial associations between grain food consumption and dietary quality are apparent. Eliminating and/or reducing grain foods in infant dietary patterns may lead to unintended nutrient and health consequences.