The US Center for Disease Control's journal, Preventing Chronic Disease, published findings from our Feeding Infants and Toddlers Study (FITS). The FITS is the largest US survey on young children's eating patterns, nutrition, and lifestyles, focusing on kids from 0–4 years old. One area the study looked at was parents' understanding of their children's health behaviours.
The way that parents see their children's eating and activity is important. Their views decide if and how families try to meet dietary and physical activity recommendations. This study examined parents' perceptions and children's behaviours compared to recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) Healthy Active Living for Families project, supported by the Nestlé Nutrition Institute. Here's how reality stacked up to recommendations:
Fruit & veg
Recommendation: Eat 5 servings of fruit and vegetables a day
The study found: Most parents thought their child consumed enough fruits and vegetables. In reality, only 30% of preschoolers met the recommendation for 5 daily servings.
Recommendation: Limit screen time to 2 hours a day for children over 2 years old. No screen time for children under 2.
The study found: Only 2% of toddlers met the recommendation for no screen time, whereas 79% of preschoolers met the recommendation to limit daily screen time to 2 hours or less.
Recommendation: Strive for at least 1 hour of physical activity a day
The study found: About 56% of toddlers and 71% of preschoolers met the recommendation of at least 1 hour of daily physical activity.
Recommendation: Limit consumption of sugar-sweetened drinks
The study found: About 56% of toddlers and 52% of preschoolers met the recommendation to limit consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages.
Based on these findings, we know that toddlers and preschoolers are not meeting some of the recommendations for diet and activity. Parents are doing a great job in meeting the physical activity recommendations and accurately perceive that their child’s diet becomes less healthy as they get older. However, there is a need for more education on the specific behaviours that are falling short. "Our findings show that parents need more education and guidance on many aspects of healthy feeding," said Denise Deming, Ph.D., Senior Principal Scientist of FITS US.
Parents need more education and guidance on many aspects of healthy feedingDenise Deming, Senior Principal Scientist of FITS US
The FITS research fills an important gap in information. This research supports Gerber's efforts to lead the way in contributing to nutrition for infants, toddlers, and preschoolers. Based on the data, Gerber provides nutritious products that are science-based and nutritionally sound. A new FITS study is currently in the field, collecting data on more than 3,000 infants and young children. The new data will update our knowledge on many aspects of young children's diet and lifestyle.