Fewer than 15 percent of the two million American elementary school-age children eat the recommended five or more daily servings of fruits and vegetables. The dismal discovery from a new analysis of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES III) data means that the vast majority of U.S. children are at increased risk for obesity and numerous chronic diseasesunless they learn to make more healthful choices for their meals and snacks.
Both at snack time and mealtime, the majority of American kids are not getting a very big nutrient bang for their calorie buck. They are eating high-fat, low-nutrient foods that deny them necessary vitamins and minerals, said Gladys Block, Ph.D., the leader of the analysis and professor of epidemiology and public health nutrition at the University of California, Berkeley. Simple substitution of a fruit or vegetable for a high fat snack could go a long way in reducing their risks of becoming overweight or, in the long term, developing diabetes, heart disease and other chronic, debilitating conditions. Parents and other care givers need to help children make more healthful food choices.
NHANES III, a federally sponsored survey, shows that 75 percent of American children ages 6 to 11 years old eat a diet with more fat than the maximum U.S. recommended level of 30 percent. Moreover, on any given day, 45 percent of children eat no fruit, and 20 percent eat less than one serving of vegetables. The average 6 to 11 year-old eats only 3.5 servings of fruits and vegetables each day, achieving only half the recommended 7 servings per day for this age group.
However, simple substitutions such as choosing a piece of fruit rather than potato chips for a snack for just one afternoon would lower the childrens daily fat intake almost to the recommended level, Block said. Choosing a piece of fruit can also improve dietary intake of important nutrients like vitamin C,
Contact: Amy Myrdal
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