Our Toddlers Are Eating Junk, Too

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Nestlé, the world's largest food company (no relation) has conducted periodic studies of infant feeding practices since 2002, no doubt to encourage sales of its Gerber products. The surveys—FITS (Feeding Infants and Nutrition) Studies—invariably show that Gerber baby foods would be better for babies than what they currently are fed.

The latest FITS results, says the Nestlé press release, "are startling."

    • One-third of toddlers and 50 percent of preschoolers eat fast food at least once a week.

    • One-quarter of families eat dinner together four or fewer nights each week.

    • Half of two-year-olds and 60 percent of three-year-olds watch more than one hour of television each day.

    • 17 percent of two-year-olds and 24 percent of three-year-olds watch more than two hours of TV each day.

    • 25 percent of older infants, toddlers, and preschoolers do not eat even one serving of fruit on a given day, and 30 percent do not eat a single serving of vegetables.

    • French fries are still the most popular vegetable among toddlers and preschoolers.

    • 71 percent of toddlers and 84 percent of preschoolers consume more sodium than recommended on a given day.

If these trends are real, could food marketing have anything to do with them? Nestlé/Gerbers does not speculate.

The survey does report some good news:

    • "Only" 17 percent of infants age six to eight months consumed a dessert or sweetened beverage on a given day compared to 36 percent in 2002.

    • "Only" 14 percent of infants age 12 to 14 months drank a sweetened beverage on a given day, down from 29 percent in 2002.

    • 33 percent of mothers are breastfeeding nine- to 11-month-old children compared to 21 percent in 2002.

The breastfeeding trend, if true, is good news indeed. Evidently, the word is also getting out on sweetened beverages. Progress? Yes, but plenty more to do.


This post also appears on foodpolitics.com.

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Marion Nestle is a professor in the Department of Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health at New York University. She is the author of Food Politics, Safe Food, What to Eat, and Pet Food Politics. More

Nestle also holds appointments as Professor of Sociology at NYU and Visiting Professor of Nutritional Sciences at Cornell. She is the author of three prize-winning books: Food Politics: How the Food Industry Influences Nutrition and Health (revised edition, 2007), Safe Food: The Politics of Food Safety (2003), and What to Eat (2006). Her most recent book is Feed Your Pet Right: The Authoritative Guide to Feeding Your Dog and Cat. She writes the Food Matters column for The San Francisco Chronicle and blogs almost daily at Food Politics.

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