|From Our Experts: Children’s Nutrition and Health|
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Proper eating habits contribute to overall healthy growth and development, including strong bones, healthy skin, and productive energy levels. It also lowers the risk of dental problems, eating disorders, constipation, malnutrition, and iron deficiency anemia.
Less than 40% of children and adolescents in the United States meet the U.S. dietary guidelines by incorporating too much saturated fat in their diet. Almost 80% of high school students do not eat fruits and vegetables five or more times per day. Only 39% of children ages 2-17 meet the USDA’s dietary recommendation for fiber (found primarily in dried beans and peas, fruits, vegetables, and whole grains). Almost 80% of adolescent females do not consume enough calcium (mainly found in milk products). Additionally, from 1978 to 1998, average daily soft drink consumption almost doubled among adolescent females and almost tripled among adolescent males.
The prevalence of obesity among children aged 6-11 years has more than doubled in the past 20 years and has tripled among adolescents aged 12-19! Overweight children and adolescents are more likely to become overweight or obese adults; one study showed that children who became obese by age 8 were more severely obese as adults.
It is our responsibility as caregivers and educators to make sure that our children maintain a healthy diet.