24-Hour Crisis Hotline: (877)SAFEGBC or (877)723-3422 Mental Health & Substance Abuse Issues

6502 Nursery Drive, Suite 100
Victoria, TX 77904
(361)575-0611
(800)421-8825

Child & Adolescent Development: Overview
Resources
Basic InformationMore InformationLatest News
Helping Ease Kids' Fears After Manchester Terror AttackOverweight in Childhood May Up Lifetime Risk of DepressionOverweight Boys Face Higher Colon Cancer Risk as AdultsHeavy Kids Face Triple the Odds for Depression in AdulthoodHealth Tip: Limit a Young Child's Media TimeMany Parents Underestimate Drowning RisksChildren Express Positive Views of Digital Tracking by StrangersToo Many Parents Say No to Helmets for Kids on WheelsHear This! Keep Cotton Swabs Out of Kids' EarsHealth Tip: Be a Safe Driver for Your Kids'Dr. Google' May Undermine Parents' Trust in Their PediatricianPAS: Hospitalizations Up for Suicidal Thoughts, Actions in KidsGuns Send About 16 U.S. Kids to the Hospital Every DayWhen Grandparents Raise Grandkids, Are They Up to Date on Child Safety?More Starring Roles for Booze in Kids' Movies, Study FindsThe Family That Eats Together, BenefitsAre Smartphones Helping or Harming Kids' Mental Health?More Active Kids Could Save U.S. Billions in Health Costs: StudyTrump Administration Rolls Back Obama-Era School Lunch RulesAre Bullies Getting Run Out of U.S. Schools?Health Tip: Turn Off Those ScreensKids' Sun Safety Means 'Slip, Slap, Slop'Pediatricians Missing Elevated Blood Lead Levels in U.S.AAP Stresses Medical Home Best for Acute Health ConcernsAre Kids' Vaccines a Victim of Their Own Success?Checklist for Family-Centered Rounds Deemed BeneficialChildren With Suspected Child Abuse Present to Hospital LateCancer Risk Rises After Childhood Organ Transplant: StudyModel Predicts Which Pediatric ER Patients Likely to Be AdmittedObesity Quadruples Kids' Type 2 Diabetes Risk: StudyAre You Raising an 'Emotional Eater'?More Risks on School Playgrounds Linked to Happier ChildrenKids Face Their Own Death Risks When a Sibling DiesIn America's Poorest Communities, a Greater Risk of Child Abuse DeathsFDA Warns Against Children Taking Codeine, TramadolNext Seven Great Achievements in Pediatric Research PredictedMany Students Reluctant to Use Asthma Inhalers at SchoolDon't Give Kids Medicines With Codeine, Tramadol: FDAMany Kids Still Being Injured on ATVsHypnosis Doesn't Improve Post-Op Anxiety, Pain in ChildrenHealth Tip: Minimizing Violence During Screen TimeHealth Tip: Concerned About Your Child's Weight?What's the Best Seasonal Allergy Med for Your Kid?Web-Based Platform Better for Delivering Pre-Op InformationKids Can Pick Up Nicotine on Their HandsHealth Tip: Checking Your Child's MolesCould a Clinical Trial Help Your Child?Direct-Acting Antivirals Approved for Children 12+ With HCVWhen Families Lack Insurance, Kids' Dental Woes Rise10 Minutes of Sweat a Day Helps Kids' Hearts
Questions and AnswersLinks
Related Topics

ADHD: Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder
Childhood Mental Disorders and Illnesses
Child Development & Parenting: Infants (0-2)
Child Development & Parenting: Early (3-7)

U.S. Kids Are Eating Healthier Now, But . . .

HealthDay News
by By Dennis Thompson
HealthDay Reporter
Updated: Nov 23rd 2016

new article illustration

WEDNESDAY, Nov. 23, 2016 (HealthDay News) -- U.S. kids are eating healthier these days, but their daily diet is still nowhere near perfect, a new study reports.

Kids today are eating more food that's good for them: whole grains, whole fruits, dairy, and protein from seafood and plants. And, just as important, they are more likely to avoid sugar-laden foods and drinks full of empty calories, according to a review of children's diet trends between 1999 and 2012.

The reduction in empty calories was so steep that it "contributed to one-third of the total improvement in children's diets," said lead researcher Xiao Gu, a master's student in epidemiology at Brown University School of Public Health in Providence, R.I.

The picture isn't completely rosy, however.

Kids' salt intake has increased in recent years, and they aren't eating more vegetables than they had been, the researchers found.

Senior researcher Katherine Tucker said, "The overall picture is quite optimistic, that some of the messages of eating healthier foods and avoiding soft drinks is getting through." She is a professor of nutritional epidemiology at the University of Massachusetts, Lowell.

"The most negative thing is sodium did not improve," Tucker continued. "Sodium is in so many of our processed foods, and people are used to salty foods. It's something that is very difficult to change."

For the study, Gu and Tucker drew dietary data from more than 38,000 kids participating in the U.S. National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys, a series of regular studies conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to track U.S. health trends.

The researchers used data from 1999 to 2012 to create a standard 100-point Healthy Eating Index, in which higher scores indicate better food choices.

During the study period, the average Healthy Eating Index score rose to 50.9 in 2012 from 42.5 in 1999, as children ate more healthy foods and more often avoided empty calories, the investigators discovered.

"It's far from the optimal level of 100," Gu said. "The increasing trend is encouraging, but the current dietary quality level is disappointing."

The study found that kids did eat more whole grains, but they had an average whole grains score of only 2 in 2012 -- far below the maximum of 10, Gu noted. Likewise, children had a whole fruit intake score of 2.1, and the optimal score is 5.

The research showed that all kids had an improvement in their diet, but that some groups still are eating better than others in the United States.

For example, the diet score among black children improved to 48.4 in 2012 from 39.6 in 1999, but they still eat more poorly than white children whose score rose to 50.2 from 42.1.

A family's income also plays a role in healthy eating, with diet improving alongside household wealth. Diet scores rose nearly 24 percent among the wealthiest third of the sample, 19 percent among the middle third, and 18 percent among the least wealthy third, the findings showed.

The study authors suggested that lower-income families may be less likely to buy healthier foods that usually cost more, and they also often live in neighborhoods with limited access to healthy foods, so-called "food deserts."

"Corner stores often sell more processed foods," Tucker said. "Urban environments often have less access to fresh fruits and vegetables."

The researchers also uncovered a difference in diet quality between federal nutrition assistance programs.

The healthy eating scores of children in families receiving Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits now lag behind those of children not receiving such benefits, the report said. At the same time, children benefiting from the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program are eating better than children not receiving that assistance.

The difference probably relates to how the two programs operate, Tucker said. SNAP has fewer limits on what families can buy with their assistance, so recipients might be tempted to buy less expensive and less healthy food, she suggested.

"It's a subsidy, but it doesn't come with a mandate to buy healthy foods, whereas the WIC program, where we saw quite a large difference, comes with a mandate to use the benefit only for healthy food," Tucker said. "It really does seem to make a difference."

According to Angela Lemond, a spokeswoman for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, all American families need better education on nutrition in order to see these scores improve even more.

"Parents may know what they should do when it comes to diet, but how does it translate into their daily life?" Lemond said. "That's the kind of guidance a lot of families need."

Lemond, a registered dietitian in Plano, Texas, is encouraged by food industry efforts to reduce salt and sugar in foods, and believes the new Nutrition Facts label coming out in 2018 -- which highlights added sugars in food -- will make a big difference.

"There are going to be a lot fewer added ingredients, which is encouraging," she said.

The study findings were published online Nov. 23 in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

More information

For more on healthy eating, visit the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.