Fries aside, children are lacking in vegetable, fruit consumption

March 19, 2009

This might not come as a big surprise, but children still aren't eating enough fruits and veggies.

This might not come as a big surprise, but children still aren't eating enough fruits and veggies. That’s the latest word based on research in the March Journal of the American Dietetic Association.

Using data from the 1999-2002 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, researchers documented the amounts of fruits and vegetables consumed by more than 6,500 children and adolescents (age 2 to 18), compared to Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommendations. Study findings showed that those eating the least fruits and vegetables were often older male children in households where income was 130% to 350% of federal poverty level.

The 2-to-5 age category ate more fruit and drank more juice than children in the 6-to-11 or 12-to-18 age categories. However, overall vegetable consumption was much greater among 12- to 18-year-olds. But it's important to note that french fries made up 46% of overall vegetable consumption, according to the data. Based on race, ethnicity and household income, the amount of fruits consumed varied widely.

Specifically Mexican Americans tend to eat more fruit than non-Hispanic white children and older youth. Dark green vegetables are a favorite among non-Hispanic black children and adolescents, while Mexican American and non-Hispanic white children and adolescents preferred deep yellow vegetables.

The children and adolescents may benefit from nutritional interventions that address amounts and types of fruits and vegetables to consume, the researchers report. "When counseling children, adolescents and their parents/caregivers, dietitians need to address factors that may influence fruit and vegetable intake, such as gender, age, race/ethnicity and income."