Progress Made in Children's Diets, but Still a Long Way to Go
Did you know that on any given day, many young children (ages 12-48 months) aren’t eating a single serving of vegetables or fruit? This is one of the findings from the newly released Nestlé 2008 Feeding Infants and Toddlers Study (FITS). The study was conducted to investigate what our youngest Americans are eating—and the results are eye-opening. It builds on a previous FITS dietary survey of infants and toddlers commissioned in 2002 by Gerber Products Company, now part of the Nestlé family.
2008 Nestlé FITS study findings:
Infants: Compared to FITS 2002, the number of months children breastfeed is longer. Breastfeeding builds a baby’s immunity, aids brain and eye development, and may help to lower a baby’s risk of developing allergies and infections. What’s more, the introduction of juice is being delayed for infants, and fewer are consuming French fries, sweetened beverages and sweets on a given day. While FITS 2008 shows positive trends in the diets of infants, the data reveal that some older infants have low intakes of iron and that iron-fortified infant cereal is being stopped earlier.
Toddlers (age 12-23 months): Overall, toddlers are meeting most of their nutrient requirements for healthy growth and development; however, FITS data show gaps in the intake of vegetables, fruit, fiber, vitamin E, potassium and total fat. Fewer toddlers are consuming French fries, sweets and sweetened beverages, but more improvement is needed.
Growing Toddlers: FITS 2008 provides a first-of-its-kind nutrition snapshot of children (ages 24-48months). The findings show that many children in this age group have unhealthy eating patterns reflective of the diets of older children and adults in the United States. In particular, children ages 24-48 months are not consuming enough fruits and vegetables, fiber, potassium and vitamin E and are getting in too much saturated fat and sodium.
- Young children are lacking fruits and vegetables. Fruit and vegetable consumption remains a problem for all age groups studied. About 25% of older infants, new toddlers and older toddlers and young children ages 12-48 months don’t eat a single serving of fruit on a given day, and 30% don’t eat a single serving of vegetables. These findings are similar to those in FITS 2002 for infants and toddlers.
- Fewer infants are consuming sweets or sweetened beverages. 17% of infants age six-to-eight months consumed a dessert or sweetened beverage on a given day (versus 36% in 2002). And for children age nine-to-11 months old this number was 43% (versus 59% in 2002).
- Fewer toddlers were consuming sweetened beverages. This was especially true among children age 12-to-14 months (14% drank a sweetened beverage on a given day in 2008 versus 29% in 2002) and children 18-to-20 months (29% in 2008 versus 47% in 2002).
- Too much of the wrong fat. On a given day 23% of toddlers 12-to-24 months and a third of children age 24-48 months are consuming diets with less than the recommended 30-to-40 percent of calories from fat. However, 75% of children age 24-48 months are consuming too much saturated fat.
- Moms are breastfeeding longer. In 2008, 33% of nine-to-11 month olds are still receiving breastmilk compared to just 21% in 2002.
Other survey findings:
On any given day:
- French fries are still the most commonly eaten vegetable among toddlers of all ages. However, they’re no longer ranked in the top five vegetables among infants age nine-to-11 months. French fries ranked among the top vegetables in the diets of older infants on a given day in the FITS 2002 study.
- Less juice. There was a significant reduction in the number of infants age four-to–11 months consuming juice.
- Not enough iron. A small but important number of older infants are not getting enough iron. In fact, 12% of children from six-to-11 months of age are not getting enough.
- Too much sodium. 71% of 12-23 month-olds and 84% of 24-48 month-olds consume more sodium than recommended.
Help for parents
FITS 2002 was the foundation of the Start Healthy, Stay Healthy™ Nutrition System, Nestlé’s patent-pending, stage-based nutrition system that combines products, education and services to foster healthy growth and development and the early establishment of healthy eating habits from birth to preschool. Start Healthy, Stay Healthy Milestones Symbols™ direct parents to the information and products tailored to their child’s developmental stage. Learn more about stage-based nutrition at StartHealthyStayHealthy.com.
The insights from FITS, along with dietary recommendations from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), the National Academy of Sciences/ Institute of Medicine (NAS/ IOM) and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) are the foundation of the Start Healthy, Stay Healthy feeding guidelines and resources.
Not sponsored or endorsed by the USDA, NAS/IOM, or AAP