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Children’s eating and lifestyle habits

Mother and child chopping vegetables in the kitchen

Children can maintain healthy eating and lifestyle habits throughout their lives if they’re established early. That’s why we’re working to expand our understanding of children’s diets around the world, and using our research findings to inform our products and services.

 

Why research children’s nutrition?

 

In many parts of the world, children’s diets don’t meet dietary guidelines and recommendations. Some are drinking too many sweetened beverages, missing out on certain vitamins and minerals, or eating inappropriate portion sizes. Others are even skipping meals altogether. And while we understand the benefits of a balanced diet, we appreciate that it’s not always easy to ensure children receive one.

We’ve worked in several locations trying to answer such questions as:

  • Why are some kids not getting enough fibre, calcium or iron?
  • What foods are contributing to excess intake of sugars and salt?
  • In which countries are children filling up on snacks?
  • What are some of their behaviour and lifestyle habits?
  • And what can we do to help address these issues?

 

Our studies

 

Each of our two major studies focuses on a life stage that is crucial in establishing dietary and lifestyle habits:

  • For the last 15 years, our Feeding Infants and Toddlers Study (FITS) has explored the eating patterns and nutritional intake of children from birth to four years old. This is when they transition from an all-milk diet to foods consumed by the whole family.
  • Our efforts have since expanded to include the diets and lifestyle habits of children aged 4–12 through our Kids Nutrition and Health Study (KNHS).

Some collect new data via questionnaires and interviews with children and their primary caregivers. Others analyse information collected by local authorities through national nutrition surveys.

The studies are tailored to each location. Currently, these include the United States, Mexico, China, Russia, Australia, the Philippines, Brazil and the Middle East.

What we’ve learned

Feeding Infants and Toddlers Study (0–4 years)

mexico

Mexico | China

61% of infants have an insufficient intake of iron and zinc

Map of USA, Mexico, Brazil and China

USA | Mexico | Brazil | China

Over half of pre-school children consume excessive levels of sodium, usually through salty snacks

usa-china-russia-mexico

USA | Mexico | China | Russia

Consumption of added sugar, sweetened beverages and sweets is high

China | USA | Mexico

China | USA | Mexico

Breastfeeding rates are still too low

Map of USA, Australia, Mexico and Brazil

USA | Australia | Mexico | Brazil

Increasing amount of daily energy consumed through snacking

Mexico-brazil-russia-usa

USA | Mexico | Brazil | Russia

Many older infants are introduced to unmodified cow’s milk too early

usa-china-russia-mexico

USA | Mexico | China | Russia

Consumption of added sugar, sweetened beverages and sweets is high

Kids Nutrition and Health Study (4–13 years)

Map of USA, Australia and Mexico

USA | Australia | Mexico

One or two pre-teens out of every 10 skip lunch, and 17% of children in Mexico don’t eat breakfast

Map of USA, Australia, Mexico, Brazil, China and Russia

USA | Australia | Mexico | Brazil | China | Russia

Fruit and vegetable consumption is well below recommended levels

Map of USA, Australia, Mexico, Russia and Brazil

USA | Australia | Mexico | Russia | Brazil

Sugar, sodium and saturated fat levels are already a problem in childhood

Map of China, USA, Mexico and Brazil

China | USA | Mexico | Brazil

Fibre is one of the most commonly missing nutrients

Map of USA

USA

Children have an inadequate intake of essential fats

Map of USA, Mexico, Brazil, China and Russia

USA | Mexico | Brazil | China | Russia

Children don’t consume enough calcium and/or vitamin D for optimal growth

Map of China, Brazil, Mexico and USA

China | Brazil | Mexico | USA

40–80% of children do not move enough

Brazil | Mexico | USA

Brazil | Mexico | USA

45–65% of children are known to spend too much time looking at screens

Using our findings

 

Lil Beanies

Improving products

The results from our studies give us a broader perspective on children’s nutritional challenges around the world. They also provide useful information about diets and behaviour in individual countries. These results inform product innovation and renovation, helping address nutritional gaps in specific countries.

For example:

In the United States:

  • The navy (haricot) beans in Lil’ Beanies make the snack suitable for young children not consuming enough vegetables, fibre and vitamin E.
NIDO FortiGrow

In Mexico:

  • We fortified our infant cereals to help infants achieve an adequate intake of iron and zinc; and
  • NIDO FortiGrow is a low-fat option for Mexican children, three-quarters of whom exceed the recommended intake of saturated fat.

 

Developing educational programmes

The results also inform our own educational initiatives, including the Nestlé Start Healthy Stay Healthy and Nestlé Healthy Kids programmes. These help caregivers, teachers and parents foster healthier behaviours in children, from the start of life to adolescence.

  • Our Nestlé Start Healthy Stay Healthy nutrition services translate the latest scientific findings into practical advice, helping parents understand what to feed, how to feed and why the first 1000 days are so crucial to their baby’s future health.
  • For children and adolescents, our large-scale grassroots and online programmes provide parents and caregivers with practical tools and solutions to help them raise healthier kids. In collaboration with over 300 partners worldwide, our school-dedicated module empowers teachers and children with nutrition education and promotes healthy lifestyles in the school environment.

Sharing knowledge

We publish our findings and share them with healthcare professionals and public health authorities. This informs the dialogues we have with all those concerned with improving children’s nutrition and health.

Browse published findings