Healthy eating is a way of life and especially important for kids whose health future is shaped by their habits today. Are kids in America eating right? The answer is yes and no. A study found that children’s’ diets in the US had improved over time but still not as healthy in quality as they need to be.
The findings are the results of a study that characterized trends in diet quality among kids and teenagers in the US, from 1999 to 2016. The participants were between the ages of 2 to 19 years old. While those between the ages of 6 to 11 were interviewed with their parents present, teenagers were self-reporting their diets. For kids 5 years and under, the parents recorded the responses.
The analysis of this data revealed that while children in the US are eating better, diets qualities remain poor for most. Low-quality diets have decreased from 77% to 56% in the duration of this study. On the other hand, ideal quality diets were limited to 1%. Teenagers had poorer eating habits as compared to younger children. The study also noted that disparities owing to factors such as parental education, household income, and food security, either persisted or worsened during this time.
“Our findings of slowly improving, yet still poor, diets in U.S. children are consistent with the slowing of rises in childhood obesity but not any reversal,” says Dariush Mozaffarian cardiologist, dean, and Jean Mayer Professor at the Tufts Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University. “Understanding these updated trends in diet quality is crucial to informing priorities to help improve the eating habits and long-term health of all of America’s youth.”
The data provided by participants was analyzed using the AHA 2020 continuous diet score as well as the AHA secondary score. While the 2020 diet score considers the consumption of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, fish and shellfish, sugar-sweetened beverages, and sodium, the secondary score nuts, seeds and legumes, processed meat, as well as saturated fat in addition to the former.
The research was funded by NIH’s National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute and the American Heart Association. The results have been published in the March 2020 issue of JAMA.