...the same habits that plague the nation's adults


Even before their second birthday, many American children are developing the same bad eating habits that plague the nation's adults--too much fat, sugar and salt and too few fruits and vegetables. A new study of more than 3,000 youngsters found significant numbers of infants and toddlers are downing French fries, pizza, candy and soda.

"Children aged 1 to 2 years require about 950 calories per day, but the study found that the median intake for that age group is 1,220 calories--an excess of nearly 30 percent. By 24 months, patterns look startlingly similar to some of the problematic American dietary patterns." Recent research has found that roughly one in every five Americans is now considered obese; double the rate in the mid-1980s.

"'(Your children) are watching you--they see what you do,' said Chicago-area dietician Jodie Shield, who has written two books on child nutrition. 'We're on a very dangerous course if we do not make some changes in helping parents step up to the plate and be role models. Across cultures, it's a positive thing to overfeed your chubby little baby... Americans are crossing over to negative patterns of round-cheeked overweight toddler, overweight preschooler, overweight child, overweight adult.'"

"Up to a third of the children under 2 consumed no fruits or vegetables, according to the survey. And for those who did have a vegetable, French fries were the most common selection for children 15 months and older. Nine percent of children 9 months to 11 months old ate fries at least once per day. For those 19 months to 2 years old, more than 20 percent had fries daily."

"Hot dogs, sausage and bacon also were daily staples for many children--7 percent in the 9-to-11 month group, and 25 percent in the older range. More than 60 percent of 12-month-olds had dessert or candy at least once per day, and 16 percent ate a salty snack. Those numbers rose to 70 percent and 27 percent at age 19 months. Thirty to 40 percent of the children 15 months and up had a sugary fruit drink each day... EARLY DIETS STRONGLY INFLUENCE CHILDREN, WHOSE FOOD PREFERENCES ARE GENERALLY SHAPED BETWEEN AGES 2 AND 3."

Author information

Associated Press Release October 26, 2003. Author and audience unknown.

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