In a recent Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR), researchers presented the state-wise dietary intake of fruits, vegetables, and sugary beverages among children residing in the United States (US) during 2021.
Study: Fruit, Vegetable, and Sugar-Sweetened Beverage Intake Among Young Children, by State — United States, 2021. Image Credit: Oksana Kuzmina/Shutterstock
Children require good nutrition for optimum growth and development, provided by diets rich in vegetables and fruits. Restricting the consumption of food items and fluids with high sugar content is essential since increased added sugars are reportedly associated with elevated risks of obesity, tooth decay, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes.
Nutritional intake estimates published by government authorities during early childhood are either obsolete nationally or have varying accessibility across states. Analyzing dietary trends among children could inform programs and policies to improve nutritional intake and limit sugar consumption among children.
About the report
In the present report, researchers analyzed the 2021 National Survey of Children’s Health (NSCH) data to assess the nutritional intake of children aged one to five years at the national level and state levels.
Web-based and paper-based questionnaires were distributed to obtain data on the nutritional intake of children under 18 years who resided in the US between June 2021 and January 2022. The study was conducted by the United States census bureau and received funds from the maternal child health bureau of the health resources and services administration department.
Household individuals were sampled randomly from the master address file of the United States census bureau and were contacted through emails to identify individuals with ≥1.0 children. An individual was chosen from each household, and survey questionnaires, available in Spanish and English, were filled out by household members familiar with the chosen adolescent or child’s health status.
Children below six years of age were over-sampled. The survey respondents were questioned on the intake of vegetables, fruits, and sugary fluids by children aged one to five years in the foregoing week. Responses were recorded as no consumption of items, once to thrice during the preceding week, four to six times during the preceding week, once daily, twice daily, and ≥3.0 times daily.
Among 18,830 pediatric individuals aged 1.0 to 5.0 years, two percent (n=444) of the children were excluded due to missing data. As a result, 18,386 children were considered for the final analysis. The weighted survey completion rates and response rates were 80% and 40%, respectively. In the foregoing week, 32% of children did not consume fruits daily, 49% did not consume vegetables daily, and 57% consumed sugary fluids ≥ 1.0 times daily.
Nutritional intake estimates varied for US states. The proportions of children not consuming fruits daily in the foregoing ranged between 16% and 50% in Vermont and Louisiana, respectively. Among 20 US states, >50% of children did not consume vegetables daily in the foregoing week, with estimates ranging between 30% and 64% in Vermont and Louisiana, respectively.
Among 40 US states and the District of Columbia (D.C.), >50% of children consumed sugary fluids ≥ 1.0 times in the foregoing week, ranging between 39% and 79% in Maine and Mississippi, respectively. One-year-old children showed a greater likelihood of consuming fruits and vegetables daily and a lower likelihood of consuming sugary beverages than older children. The proportion of children not consuming fruits and vegetables daily was the greatest and least for non-Hispanic Blacks and Whites, respectively.
Sugary fluid consumption ≥1.0 times in the foregoing week ranged between 48% among multi-racial non-Hispanics and 72% among Blacks. Compared to children residing in households with food adequacy, children residing in low food-adequacy households showed a lower likelihood of consuming fruits and vegetables daily and a greater likelihood of consuming sugary fluids in the preceding week.
Overall, the findings highlighted the nutritional intake among US children in 2021 and indicated low consumption of vegetables and fruits and increased consumption of sugary beverages among one- to five-year-old US children. The findings underscored the need to improve the nutritional intake for the overall development of young children.
Pediatric nutritional intake could improve by imparting dietary education to children in several settings and extending all dietary monitoring and counseling services.