Over Half of U.S. Kids Aged 1-5 Not Eating Daily Fruits & Vegetables
According to a study published Thursday in the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR), almost half of U.S. children aged 1 to 5 do not eat a daily vegetable and around one-third do not eat a daily fruit. The survey examined the eating habits of 18,386 children aged 1 to 5 years—specifically, how they consumed fruits, vegetables and sugary drinks.
Nearly 60-percent of parents said their child consumed a sugar-sweetened drink in the preceding week, with Mississippi reporting the highest rate of children drinking at least one sugar-sweetened beverage in the preceding week at nearly 80%. Maine reported the lowest rate of sugary drink consumption, coming in at 38.6%.
Race and ethnicity factored in differences in survey answers, with non-Hispanic Black children likeliest to not consume a daily fruit or vegetable. Current dietary guidelines for kids ages 1 to 5 recommend half a cup to two cups of fruits and vegetables per day, depending on age and caloric needs. Parents should offer at least one vegetable or fruit at each meal and snack, which don’t have to be fresh produce – frozen and canned are also good options.
“Continuing to try and expose young children to a wide variety of fruits and vegetables is an important piece,” said Lauran Larson, wellness coordinator. “Limiting or reducing foods and beverages higher in added sugars, including sugar-sweetened beverages, is important because added sugars are associated with increased risk of obesity, dental caries, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease,” the report said.
Parents should also keep in mind that it can take up to 10 times for a child to try a new food before they like it.
Vermont reported the highest rates of fruit and vegetable consumption among kids ages 1 to 5, while the recommendation is that added sugars contribute less than 10% of total calories consumed for children older than 2. The CDC also recommends that children younger than 2 not consume any added sugars.
The renewed attention to nutrition, hunger, and health at the national level, as well as the call to enhance food and nutrition security, brings forth these data to support decision-makers and practitioners in providing young children with the best possible start to their health. Policies and programs designed to promote good nutrition for little ones could result in better diets and assist in achieving healthy growth and wellbeing.
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