diets in early childhood

Eating in a child’s early years is believed to be an important means of intervening and promoting good quality nutrition. However, there are only few data on the development of nutritional quality in early childhood and data on the variation in nutritional quality progressions. A report in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics attempted to identify and evaluate these pathways

Investigators performed a secondary analysis of an observational long-term cohort study that included non-Hispanic black and white children and their parents from racially matched families along with a 4-year follow-up, resulting in up to 13 study visits for the child, with at least 3 visits required for inclusion. At the start of the study, the body mass index, infant feeding habits and data on the mother were collected. A child’s diet was assessed through a 3-day diary at each visit. The most important results were the component values ​​of the Healthy Eating Index 2005 (HEI-2005) and the total value of the HEI-2005.

They found that the overall HEI score was low when a child was 3 years old (mean ± standard error = 55.1 ± 0.4 of a maximum of 100 points) and remained stable until (?) When the child was 7 years old was old (mean ± standard error = 54.0 ± 0.6; P = 0.08 for trend). 5 HEI-2005 history groups were identified, one of which decreased over time and one improved over time. The HEI-2005 component ratings excluding meat / beans and milk intake varied significantly (all, P ≤ 0.02) between the progression groups at 3 years of age, and these differences were maintained at 7 years of age. All trajectory groups saw low component values ​​in whole vegetables, whole grains, and dark green and orange vegetables and legumes. A high degree of variability was found for whole fruits; Whole fruit; saturated fats; and calories from solid fats, alcoholic beverages, and added sugar. Children who were in the lowest-diet group were more likely to consume soft drinks regularly before their third birthday, and were also less likely to be breastfed.

The researchers concluded that children had poor nutritional quality by the age of 3 and that this remained stable until the age of 7. The diet of all children could be improved by consuming more vegetables and whole grains. In families at increased risk of overall poor nutritional quality, concentrated efforts should be made to increase fruit consumption and reduce consumption of solid fats, alcoholic beverages, and added sugars.


1. Woo J, Reynolds K, Summer S, Khoury P, Daniels S, Kalkwarf H. Longitudinal courses of nutritional quality indicate goals for nutritional improvement in early childhood. J Acad Nutr Diet. 2021; 121 (7): 1273-1283. doi: 10.1016 / j.jand.2020.08.084

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