• Article

Room for improvement remains in food consumption patterns of young children aged 2-4 years

Background: Healthy food consumption patterns in early childhood support optimal growth and development and promote lifelong health.

Objective: The objective of the Feeding Infants and Toddlers Study (FITS) 2016 is to provide updated information on food consumption patterns of children aged 0 to <4 y. This article focuses on several key aspects of the food consumption patterns of 2- and 3-y-olds and how those patterns differ between racial/ethnic groups.

Methods: The FITS 2016 is a cross-sectional study in caregivers of children aged 0 to <4 y living in the United States. Dietary data were collected in a national random sample of children (n = 3235, of whom 600 were aged 24-47.9 mo) by using a 24-h dietary recall telephone survey with the primary caregiver of the child. Data from the recall were used to calculate the percentage of children consuming specific food groups on the day of the recall and energy from these foods (kilocalories per consumer). Differences in food patterns between racial/ethnic groups were analyzed by using ANOVA and t tests.

Results: On the day of the 24-h dietary recall, 27% of 2- and 3-y-olds did not consume a distinct portion of vegetables. Fried potatoes were the most commonly consumed vegetable. Approximately 75% consumed a distinct portion of fruit and 45% consumed 100% fruit juice. Eighty-one percent of children consumed cow milk. Almost all (95%) consumed a grain product, and 59% consumed a whole grain-rich product. The majority of children (88%) consumed meat or another protein food. Nearly all (90%) consumed a dessert, sugar-sweetened beverage (SSB), or sweet; and 45% consumed an SSB. Thirty-six percent of children consumed a savory snack. There were some differences in food consumption patterns between racial/ethnic groups.

Conclusion: Findings from the FITS 2016 indicate that individual-, community-, and policy-level strategies are needed to improve the diets of young children in the United States.


Welker, E. B., Jacquier, E. F., Catellier, D. J., Anater, A. S., & Story, M. T. (2018). Room for improvement remains in food consumption patterns of young children aged 2-4 years. The Journal of Nutrition, [nxx053]. DOI: 10.1093/jn/nxx053

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