Volume 114, Number 8, Pages 1257-1276 (August 2014)
It is the position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics that children ages 2 to 11 years should achieve optimal physical and cognitive development, maintain healthy weights, enjoy food, and reduce the risk of chronic disease through appropriate eating habits and participation in regular physical activity. Rapid increases in the prevalence of childhood obesity during the 1980s and 1990s focused attention on young children's over-consumption of energy-dense, nutrient-poor foods and beverages and lack of physical activity. While recent data suggest a stabilization of obesity rates, several public health concerns remain. These include the most effective ways to promote healthy weights, the number of children living in food insecurity, the under-consumption of key nutrients, and the early development of diet-related risks for chronic diseases, such as cardiovascular disease, Type 2 diabetes, cancer, obesity and osteoporosis. This position paper reviews what children 2 to 11 years old in the United States are reportedly eating, explores trends in food and nutrient intakes, and examines the impact of federal nutrition programs on child nutrition. Current dietary recommendations and guidelines for physical activity are also discussed. The roles of parents and caregivers in influencing the development of life-long healthy eating behaviors are highlighted. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics works with other allied health and food industry professionals to translate dietary recommendations and guidelines into positive, practical health messages. Specific recommendations and sources of science-based nutrition messages to improve the nutritional well-being of children are provided for food and nutrition practitioners.