The Diet Disconnect: How Kids’ Eating & Activity Behaviors Stack Up

A new publication could help shed some light on how we’re doing

When you’re rushing through daily life, it’s hard to find time to check in on the ‘big things.’ How do we know if our families have healthy behaviors? Luckily, a new publication could help shed some light on how infants and children are doing.

The CDC’s journal, Preventing Chronic Disease, published findings from our Feeding Infants and Toddlers Study (FITS). The FITS is the largest U.S. survey on young children’s eating patterns, nutrition, and lifestyles, focusing on kids from 0–4 years old. One area the study looked at was parents’ understanding of their children’s health behaviors.

The way that parents see their children’s eating and activity is important. Their views decide if and how families try to meet dietary and physical activity recommendations. This study examined parents’ perceptions and children’s behaviors compared to recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) Healthy Active Living for Families project, supported by the Nestlé Nutrition Institute. Here’s how reality stacked up to recommendations:

Recommendation: Eat 5 servings of fruit and vegetables a day
How we’re doing: Most parents thought their child consumed enough fruits and vegetables. In reality, only 30% of preschoolers met the recommendation for 5 daily servings.

Recommendation: Limit screen time to 2 hours a day for children over 2 years old. No screen time for children under 2.
How we’re doing:
Only 2% of toddlers met the recommendation for no screen time, whereas 79% of preschoolers met the recommendation to limit daily screen time to 2 hours or less.

Recommendation: Strive for at least 1 hour of physical activity a day
How we’re doing: About 56% of toddlers and 71% of preschoolers met the recommendation of at least 1 hour of daily physical activity.

Recommendation: Limit consumption of sugar-sweetened drinks
How we’re doing: About 56% of toddlers and 52% of preschoolers met the recommendation to limit consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages.

Based on these findings, we know that toddlers and preschoolers are not meeting some of the AAP’s recommendations for diet and activity. Parents are doing a great job in meeting the physical activity recommendations and accurately perceive that their child’s diet becomes less healthy as they get older. However, there is a need for more education on the specific behaviors that are falling short. “Our findings show that parents need more education and guidance on many aspects of healthy feeding,” said Denise Deming, Ph.D., Senior Principal Scientist of FITS U.S.

The FITS research fills an important gap in information. This research supports Gerber’s efforts to lead the way in contributing to nutrition for infants, toddlers, and preschoolers. Based on the data, Gerber provides nutritious products that are science-based and nutritionally sound. A new FITS study is currently in the field, collecting data on more than 3,000 infants and young children. The new data will update our knowledge on many aspects of young children’s diet and lifestyle. Stay tuned for the latest findings!

Read the original CDC article or learn more about the Feeding Infants and Toddlers Study (FITS).