Children Not Eating Enough Fruit and Vegetables

Children Not Eating Enough
Fruit and Vegetables

This section was compiled by Frank M. Painter, D.C.
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August 18, 1998 NEW YORK (Reuters) --     Of 168 US preschoolers who participated in a week- long nutrition study, none ate the five recommended daily servings of fruits and vegetables, report researchers in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition.

Most children in the study ate less than a half serving of vegetables, and 2 servings of fruit per day-but about half of the fruit servings were in the form of juice. Although the researchers chose to count juice as a fruit serving (100% juice only, not juice drinks or blends), they caution against excess juice consumption, which "has been associated with diarrhea, growth failure, and short stature in some children, while in other children, excess juice intake has been associated with obesity."

"Children do prefer the sweet taste of juice, but to have them get all their fruit servings from juice is not the way to go. Juice will be replacing the calories they could have gotten from other foods," study co-author Helen Rockwell told Reuters Health.

On average, the group of young children, comprised of roughly equal numbers of 2- and 5-year-olds, consumed, "about 80% of the recommended fruit servings/day, but only 25% of the recommended vegetable servings/day," write the researchers, led by Dr. Barbara A. Dennison, of the Mary Imogene Bassett Research Institute, in Cooperstown, New York. "Low intakes of fruits and vegetables were associated with inadequate intakes of vitamin A, vitamin C, and dietary fiber, in addition to high intakes of total fat and saturated fat," write the researchers.

And "despite the perception that fruits and vegetables are 'too expensive,'" they note, "meats consume 30% of the US food dollar, compared to only 8% spent on fruits and 7% spent on vegetables."

Several studies have indicated that a high consumption of fruits and vegetables is linked to a lower risk of cancer. "Almost all nutrition experts agree that most Americans, including Children 2 years and over, should eat more fruits, vegetables, and grain products, while consuming diets that are lower in fat, saturated fatty acids, and dietary cholesterol," according to the report.

The habit of "eating lots of fruits and vegetables" should start young, advise the researchers. Parents should try to make a variety of fruits and vegetables available, and should try to act as role models by eating fruits and vegetables themselves. These, advise the researchers, are among "the best ways to increase children's fruit and vegetable consumption."

SOURCE:   Journal of the American College of Nutrition 1998; 17: 371-378


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