Dietary Patterns Set Early, Study Shows
Significant improvements in children’s diets can be accomplished using simple changes.
(NAPSI)—In the U.S., 10 percent of young children aged 2 to 5 are categorized as obese-emphasize healthy eating right from the start to help protect your little one.
Data from the landmark Nestlé Feeding Infants and Toddlers Study (FITS), conducted by Mathematica Policy Research, show that as early as 12 to 24 months, children can begin to develop unhealthy dietary patterns. In particular, young children don’t get enough vegetables or whole grains and they eat too many calories from solid fats and added sugar.
“It’s crucial to establish the foundation for healthy diets early in life when eating habits and food preferences are being formed,” said Dr. Kathleen Reidy, Global head of Nutrition Science, Baby Food, at Nestlé Nutrition. “The new findings show how simple changes can make significant improvements in children’s diets.”
These findings include:
• At 12 to 24 months, a diet low in fruits and veggies and high in sweets and saturated fats begins to develop. By age 4, fruits and vegetables make up about 5 percent of calories on a given day and more than 15 percent of calories consumed are from sweets.
• On a given day, 75 percent of preschoolers (2−4 years) are consuming too much saturated fat.
• Most preschoolers (2−4 years) are still consuming whole or 2 percent milk, which accounts for about 30 percent of the saturated fat in their diets on a given day.
• Beginning at 12 months, a third of calories on a given day come from between-meal eating. These eating occasions contribute about 30 percent of calories among preschoolers, so these choices need to be nutritious.
Simple changes can lead to important improvements in children’s diets. Snacks should be considered minimeals and parents and caregivers should offer fruits, vegetables, low-fat yogurt and dairy and foods made with whole grains. Instead of sugar-sweetened beverages, offer water. At age 2, children should drink 1 percent or skim milk in place of whole or 2 percent milk. Limit foods high in saturated fat such as cheese, hot dogs and bacon. Replace with foods lower in saturated fat such as fruits and vegetables, lean meats and low-fat dairy foods. Children also need healthier fats from foods like avocados and fish and foods made with canola, safflower and olive oils.
“It is much easier to establish good habits when children are young than to try to correct poor habits later,” said Dr. Jose Saavedra, M.D., FAAP, medical director, Nestlé Nutrition. “Parents need consistent messages about how to feed young children in a healthy way. If we can help educate parents on the big impact of relatively simple dietary changes, we may be able to help prevent obesity and chronic disease in children.”
For more information on eating habits, child care and feeding advice, visit www.gerber.com or call (800) 4-GERBER.