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Kid's Eating Habits in the U.S.: Trends Among Infants, Toddlers, Tweens and Teens

A majority of American youngsters have “disordered” eating habits. Their diets are long on fat, sugar, salt, and excess calories, and short on many of the key nutrients children need for optimum health now, and the avoidance of future disease. The simple solution is balancing caloric and nutrient intake over the long-term with adequate physical activity to prevent weight gain. For many consumers, however, the concepts of balance and moderation are just that - concepts. Those who are aware appear to be confused by them. Assigning blame for disordered eating patterns is easy. What is needed is a collaborative effort to address the many issues and access points that influence eating trends in order to bring about long term, positive solutions.

This comprehensive study will provide an up to the minute overview of children’s eating habits in the United States, including long-term changes. Mealtime patterns, portion distortion, and the contribution of away from home eating will also be discussed. In our land of abundance, many children have poor nutrition. This report will detail dietary recommendations for children, and will track compliance over time.

Continued media focus on obesity and wellness are beginning to have an effect. Children’s Eating Habits in the U.S.: Trends and Implications for Food Marketers will examine nutrition and health awareness and attitudes among children and adults, and will explore the influence these attitudes are having on the food and beverage industry. Evolving eating styles, including vegetarian, will be profiled, and the role of schools and school foodservice in the eating patterns of youngsters will be examined.

About the Author
Janis Barbour has more than 20 years experience in business intelligence and market research. In 2003 she established an independent research service, Barbour Information Advantage, Inc. She has held a variety of corporate research positions, most recently as Manager, Market Intelligence at Nestlé USA, Inc. During her 15 years with Nestlé, Ms. Barbour was responsible for providing secondary research support for clients throughout the organization, including Nestlé’s Swiss parent company. She also researched, wrote and edited two quarterly newsletters on nutrition and consumer trends, and was an active member of various corporate teams and task forces focusing on marketing, health and wellness, foodservices, and new product development..

Report Methodology
Children’s Eating Habits in the U.S.: Trends and Implications for Food Marketers is based on secondary and primary research. Primary research included on-site examination of the retail environment, and interviews with parents, researchers, obesity experts, academics and others involved in studying eating habits among America’s youth, and in developing and implementing programs to improve those habits.

Secondary research includes data gathered from relevant trade, business, healthcare, and government sources, including company Web sites. Government sources, including the Continuing Survey of Food Intakes of Individuals (CSFII) and its Supplemental Children’s Survey, the Nationwide Food Consumption Survey (NCFS), and NHANES, the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, provided data on food and nutrient intake trends among children. The Feeding Infants and Toddlers Study (FITS) provided detail on food patterns among the youngest children. Data on parental attitudes toward health and nutrition derived from the National Consumer Survey by Simmons Market Research Bureau (SMRB), and other surveys.

Methodology: Notes on Sources
Simmons Market Research Bureau
Simmons Market Research Bureau, New York, New York provided some of the data on parental attitudes, family meals, and visits to fast food restaurants. Each year, Simmons surveys a large sample of consumers about their buying habits, product usage, and attitudes. The data cited here derive from the fall 2003 consumer survey, based on a sample of approximately 20,000 U.S. adults.

FITS
The Feeding Infants and Toddlers Survey (FITS), a study sponsored by Gerber Products Company, incorporated national surveys of infant and toddler nutrition including the Continuing Survey of Food Intakes of Individuals (CSFII), and the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), both of which provide intake data for nationally representative samples of infants and toddlers. The Ross Mother’s Study provided data on both breastfed and bottle-fed infants. The target population of the FITS study included all children four to 24 months of age living in the 50 states and the District of Columbia.

CSFII
Findings from the Continuing Survey of Food Intakes of Individuals (CSFII), which is designed to measure what Americans eat and drink, are used to develop nutrition education programs, assess dietary changes over time, and develop food fortification policies. Participants are asked to provide detail on their food intakes on two separate days. Intake data were collected from 5,559 children in the CSFII 1998 and from 4,253 children in 1994-96. The scientifically selected sample enables results to be projected to the total population of American children.

NHANES
The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) is an ongoing survey designed to gauge the health status of Americans. The National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CC) collects, analyzes, and disseminates the data.

NFCS
The Nationwide Food Consumption Survey (NFCS) compiles data on the foods used by the entire household at home, as well as foods eaten away from home by individual family members. The study involves a nationally representative sample of about 36,000 individuals from whom food intake data is collected over three consecutive days using a 1-day dietary recall in an in-person interview and a self-administered 2-day dietary record. Intake data for children younger than 12 years of age is reported by the household respondent, generally a parent.

Children’s Eating Habits in the U.S.: Trends and Implications for Food Marketers will assess the factors that exert the most influence on children’s eating habits, including parents, peers, and advertisers, and will discuss the factors most frequently blamed for the deteriorating eating habits of America’s youth. The report will present suggestions for improvement, including education, intervention, regulation, and collaboration, along with viewpoints of activists, academics, food marketers and industry organizations.

This report provides background and outlook critical to anyone interested in promoting food, nutrition or wellness to today’s youth, including firms that market to children, and those that support them.


Executive Summary

  • The Youngest Come Closest to Meeting Targets
  • Figure E-1: Percentage of Young Children Having "Good" Diets
  • Figure E-2: Percentage of Young Children Meeting Dietary Recommendation of the Healthy Eating Index Components
  • All Children Consume Too Much Added Sugar and Fat
  • Beverage Choices Contribute to Disordered Diets
  • Changes in Children’s Food and Nutrient Intakes
  • Contributions of Away from Home Eating
  • Meal Patterns Influence Nutrient Intakes
  • Table E-1: Nutrient Intake by Frequency of Family Meals in Past Week
  • Nutrients
  • Children’s Nutrient Intakes vs. Recommendations
  • Consumer Confusion
  • Health Implications of Children’s Dietary Patterns
  • Snack Attack
  • Vegetarian Kids are the Minority
  • The Role of Schools
  • More than Enough Blame to go Around
  • Actions Needed

Chapter 1: What Children Eat - Infants and Toddlers

  • Table 1-1: Proportion of U.S. Infants and Toddlers, by Age Who Consumed Selected Foods In A Day
  • Milk Consumption Generally Conforms to Recommendations
  • Table 1-2: Percentage of Infants and Toddlers Consuming Milk Products
  • Grain-food Consumption: Concerns Include Iron, Sweets
  • Table 1-3: Percentage of Infants and Toddlers Consuming Grain-Based Foods
  • Fruit and Veggie Consumption is Cause for Concern
  • Table 1-4: Percentage of Infant and Toddler Consumption of Select Vegetables, by Age
  • Table 1-5: Evolution of Infant/Toddler Vegetable Eating Habits, by Age
  • Table 1-6: Percentage of Infants and Toddlers Consuming Different Types of Fruit
  • Table 1-7: Top Fruits Consumed by Age Group
  • Common Meat Choices Are Low in Iron, Often High in Calories, Fat, and Sodium
  • Table 1-8: Percentage of Infants and Toddlers Consuming Different Types of Foods
  • By the Age of One, Nearly 80% of Toddlers Consume Sweets
  • Table 1-9: Percent of Infants and Toddlers Consuming Desserts, Sweetened beverages and Salty Snacks
  • Nutrient Intakes of Infants and Toddlers
  • Table 1-10: Energy Consumption of Infants and Toddlers Exceed Requirements
  • Food and Nutrition Patterns in Young Children
  • Healthy Eating Index - How Young Children Rate
  • Figure 1-1: Percentage of Children Eating a “Good” Diet
  • Less than 20% of Young Children Have “Good” Diets
  • Figure 1-2: Percentage of Young Children Meeting the Dietary Recommendation of the Healthy Eating Index Components
  • Table 1-11: Young Children Meeting Dietary Recommendation of HEI Components By Socio-demographic Characteristics
  • Table 1-12: The Quality of Young Children Diets, By Socio-demographic Characteristic
  • Dairy Consumption of Young Children
  • Table 1-13: Young Children’s Consumption of Milk and Milk Products
  • Most Young Children Miss Nutrient Intake Targets
  • Table 1-14: Young Children’s Daily Consumption of Fruits and Vegetables
  • Table 1-15: Young Children’s Daily Nutrient Intakes: Mean Amounts Consumed
  • Table 1-16: Recommended Protein Intake in Grams Per Pound of Body Weight
  • Table 1-17: How Food Label Reference Values (DV) Compare to the Nutritional Recommendations for Children
  • Food and Beverage Patterns of School-Age Children
  • Table 1-18: School-Aged Children’s Daily Consumption Milk and Milk Products
  • Table 1-19: School-Aged Children’s Daily Consumption of Fruits and Vegetables
  • Nutrient Patterns Among School Age Children
  • Table 1-20: Percentages of School-Aged Children with Diets Meeting 100% of the Recommended Dietary Allowances
  • Table 1-21: Mean Percentages of Food Energy from Protein, Total Fat, Fatty Acids, and Carbohydrates
  • Food and Nutrient Consumption of Tweens, Teens
  • Table 1-22: Tween/Teen Consumption of Milk and Milk Products
  • Table 1-23: Teen/Tween Consumption of Fruits and Vegetables
  • Table 1-24: Tween/Teen Nutrient Intakes: Mean Amounts Consumed per Individual
  • Table 1-25: Many Children Do Not Consume the Recommended Amounts of Key Nutrients
  • All Children Exceed Consumption Recommendations for Added Fats, Sugars
  • Table: 1-26: Intake from the Pyramid Tip
  • Sweetened Drinks Contribute to Sugar Overload
  • Table 1-27: Reported Daily Consumption of Carbonated Soft Drinks

Chapter 2: Patterns of Beverage Consumption

  • Table 2-1: The Nutrient Composition of Soft Drinks
  • Carbonated Soft Drink Consumption Has Soared
  • Table 2-2: Beverages Available In the U.S. Food Supply, 1970-1997
  • Sweetened Drinks Replace More Nutritious Options
  • The Likelihood of Consuming Milk Declines with Age
  • Table 2-3: Beverages Commonly Consumed by U.S. Children
  • Mean Daily Beverage Intakes
  • Table 2-4: Children’s Mean Daily Intakes of Selected Beverages by Age and Gender
  • Consumption of Sweetened Drinks Implicated in Childhood Obesity
  • Beverage Choices Contribute to Nutrient Intakes
  • Table 2-5: American Academy of Pediatrics Guidelines on Fruit Juice
  • The Importance of Dairy Consumption
  • Table 2-6: Calcium and Milk Recommendations for Children and Teens

Chapter 3: Changes in Children’s Consumption of Food and Nutrients

  • Trends among Children Ages 6 to 11
  • Table 3-1: Changes in Mean Intakes, Grain Products and Mixtures, Boys & Girls 6 to 11 Years Old
  • Vegetable & Fruit Intake Among Children Ages 6 to 11
  • Table 3-2: Changes in Mean Intakes from Vegetables and Fruit, Boys & Girls 6 to 11 Years Old
  • Dairy Products and Other Beverages
  • Table 3-3: Changes in Mean Intakes from Dairy Products and Other Beverages, Boys & Girls 6 to 11 Years Old
  • Meat and Meat Alternates
  • Table 3-4: Meat and Meat Alternatives, Fats and Sweets
  • Changes in Percentages of Children Using Selected Food Groups
  • Table 3-5: Changes in Percentage of Children Using Selected Food Groups, Boys & Girls 6 to 11 Years Old
  • Changes in Nutrient Intakes Among Children 6-11
  • Table 3-6: Changes in Mean Intakes of Food Energy and Selected Nutrients, and Mean Percentages of Calories from Protein, Fat and Carbohydrate, Girls- Ages 6 to 11
  • Table 3-7: Changes in Mean Intakes of Food Energy and Selected Nutrients, and Mean Percentages of Calories from Protein, Fat and Carbohydrate, Boys- Ages 6 to 11
  • Adolescent Intake Trends
  • Grain Products
  • Table 3-8: Changes in Mean Intakes from Grain Products and Mixtures, Adolescent Boys & Girls 12 to 19 Years Old
  • Vegetables and Fruit
  • Table 3-9: Changes in Mean Intakes from Vegetables and Fruits, Adolescent Boys & Girls 12 to 19 Years Old
  • Dairy Products and Other Beverages
  • Table 3-10: Changes in Mean Intakes from Dairy Products and Other Beverages, Adolescent Boys & Girls 12 to 19 Years Old
  • Meat and Meat Alternates, Fats and Sweets
  • Table 3-11: Meat, Meat Alternates, Fats and Sweets
  • Changes in Percentage of Adolescents Using Selected Food Groups
  • Table 3-12: Changes in Percentage of Children Using Selected Food Groups, Boys & Girls 12 to 19 Years Old
  • Nutrient Intake Changes Among Adolescents
  • Table 3-13: Changes in Mean Intakes of Food Energy and Selected Nutrients, and Mean Percentages of Calories from Protein, Fat and Carbohydrate, Girls- Ages 12 to 19
  • Table 3-14: Changes in Mean Intakes of Food Energy and Selected Nutrients, and Mean Percentages of Calories from Protein, Fat and Carbohydrate, Boys- Ages 12 to 19

Chapter 4: Contribution of Away from Home Eating

  • Away from Home Eating Contributes One Third of a Child’s Caloric Intake
  • Popularity of Fast Food
  • Table 4-1: Calories Contributed By Fast Food, On The Days It Is Consumed
  • Table 4-2: Percentage of Caloric Intake, Home Foods vs. Away-From-Home Foods
  • Nearly a Third of Children Eat Fast Food in a Day
  • Table 4-3: Percentage of Children Eating Fast Food Daily
  • Away from Home Eating Influences Quality of Children’s Diets
  • Table 4-4: Mean Intakes of Energy and Selected Nutrients and Food Groups Among 4- to 19-Year-Old Children by Fast-Food Intake Status
  • Table 4-5: Mean Intakes of Selected Nutrients and Food Groups Among 4- to 19-Year-Old Children by Age Group and Fast-Food Intake
  • Children Need to Trim Fat Intake, Especially Away from Home
  • Table 4-6: Children’s Share of Calories from Fat and Saturated Fats
  • Children Consume Too Much Sodium, Too Little Fiber, Too Little Calcium
  • Table 4-7: Children’s Consumption of Key Nutrients At Home and Away
  • Fast Food Consumption Contributes to Poor Diet Quality

Chapter 5: Meal Patterns

  • Breakfast Is the Most Important Meal of the Day
  • Children Benefit from Family Meals
  • Table 5-1: Frequency of Family Meals Per Week
  • Table 5-2: Frequency of Family Meals and Selected Food Intake Among Children
  • Table 5-3: Nutrient Intake by Frequency of Family Meals in Past Week

Chapter 6: Comparing Dietary Intakes with Recommendations

  • Disordered Eating Patterns
  • Figure 6-1: “Real” Children’s Food Pyramid
  • Table 6-1: Fat, Added Sugars as Percent of Calories Consumed In a Day by Gender and Age
  • Servings Consumed vs. Pyramid Recommendations
  • Table 6-2: Mean Numbers of Pyramid Servings Consumed Per Day, by Gender and Age
  • Table 6-3: Recommended Daily Intake in Servings, and Measure or Weight
  • Few Children Meet Pyramid Targets
  • Table 6-4: Percent of Individuals Meeting Pyramid Recommendations for the Five Food Groups
  • Table 6-5: Percentages of Children/Teens Consuming Specified Number of Pyramid Servings

Chapter 7: Consumer Confusion - Discrepancies between Attitudes and Behavior

  • Parents Stress Nutritious Meals for their Children
  • Brown Bag Lunches Considered Superior to Cafeteria Food
  • Parents Prefer Organic Food
  • Parental Confusion about Nutritional Advice
  • Figure 7-1: Knowledge of Food Guide Pyramid Recommendations Among Adults, 1994-95 1
  • Consumer Attitudes About Home Cooking vs. Fast Food
  • Table 7-1: Attitudes Regarding Fast Food and Diet: Percentage of Adults Who “Agree A Lot”
  • Table 7-2: Attitudes Regarding Fast Food and Diet: Percentage of Adults Who Express Any Agreement
  • Incidence of Adults Eating Fast Food with Children
  • Table 7-3: Fast-Food Eating Habits by Age, Gender and Race
  • Table 7-4: Likelihood of Eating Fast Food with Children, Based on Region of the Country
  • Table 7-5: Adults Eating Fast Food with Children, By Presence and Age of Children in the Household.
  • Incidence of Family Meals Declines as Children Age
  • Table 7-6: Incidence of “Family Meals,” By Presence and Age of Children in a Household
  • Many Parents Incorrectly Gauge Child’s Weight
  • Table 7-7: Top 5 Food Factors Contributing to Childhood Obesity
  • Table 7-8: Top 5 Lifestyle Factors Contributing to Childhood Obesity
  • What Children Have to Say about Nutrition and Weight
  • Table 7-9: Children’s Attitudes About Healthy Foods
  • Table 7-10: Children’s Attitude About Healthy Foods

Chapter 8: Health Implications of Children’s Dietary Patterns

  • Obesity: The Most Visible Consequence of Poor Eating Patterns
  • Figure 8-1: Percentage of Americans Who Associate Obesity with a Given Age Group
  • Increasing Prevalence of Overweight and Obesity
  • Figure 8-2: Prevalence of Childhood Obesity
  • Parents Contribute to Their Children’s Weight Problems
  • Table 8-1: Risk of Overweight has Increased Among Children and Adolescents
  • Figure 8-3: Parental Beliefs about Nutrition Attitudes and Relationship to Overweight in Children
  • Table 8-2: Correlation Between Parental Knowledge of Nutrition and Children’s Overweight Status
  • Table 8-3: Parental Beliefs about Nutrition Attitudes and Relationship to Overweight in Children
  • Adequate Nutrition is Important Throughout Childhood, Particularly Adolescence
  • An Epidemic of "D-ficiency"?
  • Diabetes
  • Heart Disease Risk May Affect One Child in Eight
  • Obesity Leads to High Blood Pressure Among Children
  • Improved Diets Yield Healthcare Savings
  • Improved Diets Offer Significant Savings
  • Dietary Patterns Have a Direct Effect on Health
  • Table 8-4: Consequents of Inadequate and Excessive Intake of Selected Nutrients

Chapter 9: Evolving Eating Styles

  • Relatively Few Kids are Vegetarians
  • Table 9-1: Percentage of Kids/Teens Who Never Eat Meat, Fish or Poultry
  • Experts Confirm Vegetarian Diets can be Healthy, Safe for Kids, Teens
  • Snacks Replace Meals
  • Kids Influence Family Meals
  • Growing Concern about Eating Disorders

Chapter 10: Shaping Kids’ Eating Habits - The Role Schools Play

  • Table 10-1: Mean Nutrient Intake of School Age Children, by NSLP Participation Status
  • Weaning Schools, and Children, from Junk Food
  • Table 10-2: Proportion of Schools where Students Can Purchase Selected Food or Beverages in Vending Machines, School Store, Canteen or Snack Bar
  • Table 10-3: Proportion of U.S. Schools Allowing Students to Buy Specific Foods or Beverages from Vending Machines or a School Store, Canteen, or Snack Bar at Specific Times
  • Snack Bars, not Salad Bars
  • Legislating Stronger Policies
  • School Nutrition Programs Can Work
  • Schools Are in a Unique Position to Improve Nutrition

Chapter 11: Finger Pointing: Plenty Of Blame To Go Around

  • Portion Distortion
  • Figure 11-1: Percent Difference Between Portions Commonly Consumed and Government-Recommended Serving Sizes
  • Figure 11-2: Introduction of Larger Portion Sizes, 1970 to 1999
  • Pointing the Finger at American Agriculture Policy
  • Sky Rocketing Sugar Consumption
  • Fast Food Contributes to Poor Nutrient Intakes of Children
  • Television Viewing Linked with Obesity, Poor Diets
  • Table 11-1: Percentage of Children Ages 6 to 14 Having a Television, VCR, or DVD In Their Room
  • Advertising Blamed for Childhood Obesity
  • Parental Attitudes Toward Advertising
  • Table 11-2: Media Attitudes of Parents: Advertising and Television Programs
  • Do Marketers Think They Deserve the Blame?
  • What do Consumers Think?
  • Table 11-3: Top 5 Food Factors Contributing to Childhood Obesity
  • Table 11-4: Top-5 Lifestyles Factors Contributing to Childhood Obesity
  • Table 11-5: Parents Who Agree “Food Manufacturers Are Doing All They Can To Provide Healthy Alternatives” - Top-5 Categories “Doing All They Can”
  • Table 11-6: Bottom-5 Categories “Doing All They Can”
  • Importance of the Parental Role Model

Chapter 12: Responses to the Crisis in Childhood Nutrition

  • Corporate Actions
  • General Mills
  • Kraft
  • Reducing Trans Fats, Serving Sizes
  • Foodservice Responses
  • Regulatory Action and Government Intervention
  • Community-Based Intervention
  • Case Study: Somerville, MA
  • The BONES Project

Appendix: Addresses of Selected Marketers

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