Young Children Have Excess Saturated Fat, Sodium in Diets

Kathleen Reidy, DrPH, RD, and head of nutrition science at Nestle Infant Nutrition, and Denise Deming, PhD,  of Nestle, presented two abstracts on the recent analysis of FITS 2008 during the "Nutrition Education: Childhood Obesity Prevention I" symposium at the Experimental Biology 2014 conference.

Reidy, the lead author of an analysis examining top food sources contributing to energy (calories), saturated fat and sodium intake in the diets of toddlers (12-23 months) and preschoolers (24-47 months) found:

  • A few foods contribute almost 50% of daily calories—these include milk, cheese, bread and rolls, ready-to-eat cereals, poultry (chicken and turkey), butter, margarine or other fats.
  • Preschoolers are consuming nearly one-third, or about 400, of their total daily calories from solid fats and added sugars.
  • Top foods representing 70% of saturated fat intake include milk, cheese, butter, hot dogs/bacon, beef, poultry, and cakes/cookies.
  • Top foods contributing almost 40% of young children's sodium intake include milk, hot dogs and bacon, chicken/turkey, cheese, bread and rolls, crackers and ready-to-eat cereals.  This intake equates to a child (24-47 months) consuming an average of 1,863 mg of sodium per day.

The new findings complement previously released research from FITS which showed 45% of toddlers and 78% of preschoolers consume more sodium than recommended. 

Deming analyzed dietary intake surveys for parents of 2,386 toddlers and preschoolers to lead an analysis on how snacking patterns among US toddlers and preschoolers differ according to location.  Deming found:

  • Many children consume milk, crackers and fresh fruits at snack time, but a variety of sweet snacks become the more popular choice when snacks are consumed away from home.
  • Snacks consumed away from home contributed about 50 more calories to the daily diet.

The FITS 2008 study evaluated the diets of 3,378 children from birth to four years of age. Study participants which included parents or primary caregivers of infants and young children completed twenty-four hour dietary recall surveys by telephone. For the study, parents or caregivers were allowed to define what foods children consumed as snacks and where these were consumed.

Source: Nestle Nutrition