There’s been so much going on in the school food world that I’m late sharing with you a recent – and troubling – study on the diets of very young kids.
The upshot: soon after babies transition to solid food, a surprisingly high amount of sugary and salty foods starts to creep into their diets. As summarized by the Washington Post:
While a [9-month-old] child’s diet at that time is mostly full of good stuff — string beans, oatmeal, rice, peaches, yogurt and crackers are at the top of the lists — you can already see small amounts of the bad stuff — brownies and cakes — showing up. At the beginning of the toddler period, 12 to 14 months, you see potato chips and soft drinks.
By their first birthdays, U.S. kids’ diets are already completely imbalanced, according to Fulgoni’s analysis.
The good news, if you can call it that, is that more than 60 percent are eating fruit on any given day. But half of that comes from juice, which can be overloaded with sugars. Bananas and apples are the next most popular. Vegetables are more of a problem. On any given day, only 30 percent of 1-year-olds are eating them, with the main source being whole or mashed potatoes.
So what are they eating? About 40 percent of them are filling their diets with things like brownies, cookies, crackers and other salty snacks.
As a result, the studied toddlers were eating on average more than 5 teaspoons of added sugar and more than 1,500 milligrams of sodium a day – far more than children should consume and at the upper limit of what adults should consume.
The article discusses two possible reasons why toddlers’ diets are so surprisingly unhealthy: parents enjoy letting babies try “fun” foods such as cake and ice cream, and they also feel pressure just to get their picky toddlers fed. But given that the toddlers’ diets closely mirror the Standard American Diet, maybe they simply reflect the way their own parents eat on a regular basis?
It’s well worth reading the entire Washington Post piece, which includes several eye-opening data tables from the study.
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