Hold the chips and pass the broccoli! Only 1 percent of American young people ages 2 to 19 eat healthful diets, a study found.
On average, young people in that age group receive 40 percent of their energy from fat and added sugar rather than eating well-rounded diets of a variety of foods, according to the study published Tuesday in the September issue of the journal Pediatrics.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends eating six to 11 servings of grain each day, three to five servings of vegetables, two to four of fruit, two to three of dairy products and 5 to 7 ounces of meat. The guidelines call for 10 percent or less in fat and added sugar.
Sixteen percent of 3,307 young people interviewed in a nationwide telephone survey conducted by the USDA between 1989 and 1991 did not meet any of the federal guidelines on nutrition. Only 30 percent met the dietary recommendations for fruit, grain, meat and dairy, while 36 percent ate the recommended amount of vegetables. Only 1 percent met all five requirements.
Bad eating habits in childhood can lead to disease later in life, including heart problems associated with too much fat, and osteoporosis from low calcium intake, said Dr. Kathryn Munoz, one of the study’s authors.
A poor diet can also lead to obesity.
“It is in early childhood when you have the groundwork as to what foods will become favorite foods,” said Jo Ann Hattner, a nutritionist at Stanford University Medical Center who was not involved in the study. “Parents need to set an example and remember they are in charge of the food purchased.”
There was some good news: Boys between the ages of 12 and 19 had the highest consumption of recommended food groups. The downside may be that girls eat less to lose weight, Hattner said.
Parents can help by giving children 1 percent or skim milk, replace soda with juices and encourage young people to eat vegetables and fruits with low fat, yogurt-based dips instead of mayonnaise-based dips, experts said.