Eye on Nutrition: Choline

Food Packages Nutrition Education

WIC food packages and nutrition education are the chief means by which WIC affects the dietary quality and habits of participants. Did you know that these two benefits are among the top reasons for continued participation in WIC (in addition to the work of WIC personnel!), and that consistent 4-year participation in WIC was associated with better diet quality?

Eye on Nutrition brings focus to the foods and nutrients in the WIC food packages to shine a light on their importance to WIC participants. Given how significant choline is during pregnancy and lactation, Eye on Nutrition is concentrating on it this nutrient, in support of 2021 National WIC Breastfeeding Week.

Be sure to check out choline-rich recipes members of the WIC community have shared with us.

What is Choline and Why is it Important?
What WIC-Eligible Foods Provide Choline?
Is Choline on the Nutrition Facts Label?

Education Resources

 

What is Choline and Why is it Important?

Choline is an essential micronutrient that the body can make (in small amounts) and is found in a variety of foods.

The Dietary Guidelines acknowledge choline’s importance at each life stage and highlight increased needs during pregnancy and lactation to ensure the health of both the mother and the baby.

During these times, the baby gets choline from the mother either from the placenta or through breastmilk, respectively. Adequate choline in the mother’s diet will ensure maternal stores are intact, while also providing enough to support the growth and development of the baby’s brain and spinal cord.

According to the Dietary Guidelines, most women do not meet recommended amounts of choline during pregnancy and lactation. Women are encouraged to consume a variety of choline-containing foods during these life stages.

 

What WIC-Eligible Foods Provide Choline?

A number of WIC-eligible foods contain choline, though not all foods may be available in every State, US Territory, or Indian Tribal Organization due to the flexibility they have in selecting foods for their WIC food packages. Among the WIC-eligible foods that provide choline are:

  • Eggs (especially the yolk)
  • Legumes, like kidney beans, navy beans, and peas
  • Vegetables, particularly cruciferous ones like Brussels sprouts, broccoli, kale, collards, and bok choy, as well as soybeans*, potatoes and shiitake mushrooms
  • Canned tuna and salmon
  • Milk and milk products, including yogurt

*Technically soybeans are in the legume category, but participants can purchase them with the CVV since they’re only available in fresh and frozen forms, so we included them here!

Foods beyond those in the WIC food packages that have choline are meat, poultry, other seafood and nuts. Those who do not eat eggs or meat, such as vegans or vegetarians, should take extra care to ensure they are getting choline through the plant-based sources.

The Dietary Guidelines recommend meeting nutrient needs through foods and beverages, but women who are concerned about meeting choline recommendations (including those who follow a vegetarian or vegan dietary pattern) should speak with their healthcare provider to determine whether choline supplementation is appropriate. This includes pregnant participants taking prenatal supplements, since not all contain choline, or choline in amounts to meet recommendations.

 

Is Choline on the Nutrition Facts Label?

It’s voluntary for manufacturers to list choline on the Nutrition Facts label, unless the package labeling includes a statement about the health effects or the amount contained in the food (for example, "high" or "low") – then the amount must be listed.

If on the label, it’ll be listed using milligrams (mg) and % Daily Value (DV). A product is considered a “good source of choline” if it has 55 mg (10%DV) of choline per serving; 20%DV or more would be considered “high”. See other nutrient content claims and their definitions.

The %DV (how much a nutrient in a single serving of an individual packaged food or dietary supplement contributes to your daily diet) can be helpful to make comparisons between products (as long as serving sizes are the same) and informed choices.

Read more about the Daily Value:

Daily Value and % Daily Value

The Lows and Highs of Percent Daily Value on the new Nutrition Facts Label

 

Education Resources

The Nutrition Facts label fact sheets for vitamins and minerals provide action steps for consuming a diet rich in vitamins and minerals (including choline), and charts that identify food sources of each vitamin and mineral.

Advice about eating fish for pregnant and breastfeeding women and parents offers a chart to make it easier to choose options lower in mercury, as well as additional Guides For Hispanic and Chinese American Families available from FDA.

MyPlate offers dairy, vegetables, and protein foods (including beans, peas, and lentils) nutrition education resources, including galleries for each of the food groups, as well as interactive resources for participants to:

  • Take the MyPlate Quiz to see how their eating habits stack up against recommendations and get tailored resources and a personal quiz results code to sync with the Start Simple with MyPlate app.
  • Set simple goals based on their personal needs with the Start Simple with MyPlate app. Sync results from the MyPlate Quiz for a personalized experience.  Join challenges, see progress, and earn badges to celebrate successes.
  • Find activity sheets for kids, including bingo, coloring sheets and a food critic activity to help kids try new fruits, vegetables, or a new recipe.
Image of choline food sources
Developed by: USDA, Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion