Healthy Dietary Habits for Infants and Toddlers Still Lacking

ELK GROVE VILLAGE, Ill. — Food preferences are established during infancy and toddlerhood, and factors such as exposure to breast milk, the timing of introduction to solid foods, and types of first foods offered are believed to play an important role in laying the foundation for healthy eating habits.

With this in mind, a study in the June 2017 issue of Pediatrics, “Trends in Food and Beverage Consumption among Infants and Young Toddlers: 2005-2012,” examined recent trends in food and beverage consumption among infants and toddlers from birth to 23 months, using data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.

The study shows that, while there have been some recent improvements in the diets of children, they continue to fall short of current feeding recommendations in some areas. Researchers estimate that nearly 60{06cf2b9696b159f874511d23dbc893eb1ac83014175ed30550cfff22781411e5} of infants ages 0 to 5 months did not consume any breast milk. However, they did find a decrease in complementary feeding, including solid-food consumption, among infants 0 to 5 months, which aligns with American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommendations of exclusive breastfeeding during the first six months of life. For young toddlers, particularly some racial/ethnic groups such as non-Hispanic blacks, fruit or vegetable consumption falls far behind the AAP recommended frequency.

Furthermore, the sources of vegetable intake may be suboptimal: the data showed that a 1-year old was more likely to eat fried white potatoes than dark green vegetables on an average day. The study did find good news in that fruit-juice consumption decreased among infants enrolled in WIC, and that Mexican-American children ages 12 to 23 months are drinking soda less often.

The researchers state that these results show that more education for parents and caregivers on healthy dietary habits for young children is needed, and that the diets of young children should be monitored by clinicians and addressed by future dietary guidelines for infants and children from birth to 24 months.