The Meal Requirements serve to (1) provide patterns and specifications for menus consistent with the Dietary Guidelines and nutrient targets and (2) allow the identification of meals that qualify for reimbursement. Recommendations for Meal Requirements, implementation strategies, and evaluation and research are addressed below.
In order to bring the Meal Requirements into alignment with the best available dietary guidance and to improve consistency with the requirements of other FNS programs, the committee recommends that the FNS of USDA take the following steps:
Meal Requirement Recommendation 1: USDA should adopt the recommended Meal Requirements for healthy infants up to 1 year of age. Key elements of this recommendation are the provision of only breast milk or formula for infants under 6 months of age; the gradual introduction of baby meats, cereals, fruits, and vegetables beginning at age 6 months; and the omission of fruit juice of any type before the age of 1 year. Tables 7-1 and 7-8 in Chapter 7 provide the detailed specifications for the infant meal patterns.
Meal Requirement Recommendation 2: For all children age 1 year and older and for adults, USDA should adopt Meal Requirements that increase the variety of fruits and vegetables, increase the proportion of whole grains, and decrease the content of solid fats, added sugars, trans fats, and sodium. The recommended Meal Requirements continue to contain valuable features of the current meal requirements, such as focusing on food groups, specifying minimum amounts of foods to be provided at meals and snacks, and not allowing foods such as soft drinks, fruit drinks, and candy to be included in reimbursable meals. Three types of meal patterns continue to be defined: breakfast, lunch and supper, and snacks. The major food groups in the meal patterns are also similar to those currently used: fruits and vegetables, grains/bread, meat/meat alternates, and milk (but fruits and vegetables are now separated in the pattern specifications). Although the foods contained in these groups continue to be like the MyPyramid food groups and cheese and yogurt still may be used as meat alternates, there is an emphasis on lean or low fat choices. The new recommended food specifications place limitations on a larger number of foods within each food group.
As with the current meal patterns, differences in energy and nutrient needs across the age groups for children and adults are considered by adjusting the portion sizes within the food groups. The amount of food in the meal patterns increases across the four younger age groups (age 1 year, 2–4 years, 5–13 years, and 14–18 years), and then decreases for adults to