Study Shows That Diets of Infants are Improving; Concerns Remain for Toddlers and Preschoolers

Sun Oct 18, 2009 6:45pm EDT

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Study Shows That Diets of Infants are Improving; Concerns Remain for Toddlers
and Preschoolers
Nestle releases data showing that caregivers are feeding infants better diets,
but may need more guidance to improve the diets of toddlers and preschoolers

DENVER, Oct. 18 /PRNewswire/ -- American Dietetic Association's Food &
Nutrition Conference & Expo -- Parents and caregivers are hearing and
following the feeding guidance for infants, yet continued work needs to be
done to help them also build good eating habits for their growing children,
suggests data from the Nestle Feeding Infants and Toddlers Study (FITS)
released today at a symposium at the American Dietetic Association's Food &
Nutrition Conference & Expo.

The study reveals both progress and areas of concern in the diets of young
children in the United States. The data show some positive trends versus 2002
when Gerber Products Company, now part of the Nestle family, first
commissioned the FITS study.  Infants are being breastfed longer; and fewer
infants and toddlers are consuming sweets and sweetened beverages on a given
day. However, other findings are less positive -- on a given day, many
toddlers and preschoolers aren't eating a single serving of vegetables or
fruit; and many toddlers and preschoolers are consuming diets with less than
the recommended 30-to-40 percent of calories from fat.  Most preschoolers are
eating too much saturated fat and sodium.

The FITS findings suggest that more guidance and support is needed to help
caregivers better transition from feeding their babies to meeting the unique
nutrition and feeding needs of a toddler or preschooler. As a result, too many
young children are mirroring the often unhealthy eating patterns of American

Leveraging science to nourish a healthier generation   

"Good nutrition from birth through preschool sets the foundation for healthy
habits later in life," said Dr. Kathleen Reidy, Head, Nutrition Science, Meals
& Drinks, Nestle Nutrition. "The Nestle FITS data provide a rich source of
information and we'll continue to analyze the data for new insights, sharing
and applying our findings to advance the quality of children's diets."

Nestle FITS is a dietary intake survey of a large, cross-sectional sample of
parents and caregivers that provides a snapshot of the eating patterns and
nutrient intakes on a given day of infants, toddlers, and preschoolers living
in the United States. Data were collected for a sample of 3,378 children age
zero-to-four years and provided important information on what foods are eaten
at various different stages of development as children transition from an all
milk diet onto the foods of the family. Nestle FITS 2008 is an updated and
expanded survey from FITS 2002 that provided dietary data on a sample of 3,000
infants and toddlers age four-to-24 months.

The 2008 study offers a comparison to 2002 for those children age four-to-24
months, and provides new data and insight into the eating patterns and
nutrient intakes of children age zero-to-three months and preschoolers.
Mathematica Policy Research, a nonpartisan research firm, conducted the study
on behalf of Nestle. Mathematica also conducted the FITS 2002 study.

"Parents and caregivers need support and education around the unique nutrition
needs of young children," said Dr. Nancy Butte, PhD. Professor, USDA/ARS
Children's Nutrition Research Center, Department of Pediatrics, Baylor College
of Medicine. "The 2008 FITS data shows us that more feeding guidance is needed
during the transition to table foods. We are seeing eating patterns in
toddlers and preschoolers that mirror those of adults--24 percent of children
ages two-to-five are overweight or obese in the United States. We need to put
more focus on establishing healthy eating patterns during the first four

2008 Nestle FITS Study Highlights  

    --  Fewer infants are consuming sweets or sweetened beverages. Seventeen
        percent of infants age six-to-eight months, consumed a dessert, sweet
        sweetened beverage on a given day versus 36 percent in 2002. A similar
        change was seen for children age nine-to-11 months old, with 43
        in 2008 versus 59 percent in 2002 consuming any dessert, sweet or
        sweetened beverage.
    --  Fruit and vegetable consumption remains a problem for all age groups
        studied. About 25 percent of older infants, toddlers and preschoolers
        don't eat a single serving of fruit on a given day, and 30 percent
        eat a single serving of vegetables. These findings are similar to
        in FITS 2002 for infants and toddlers.
    --  Fewer toddlers were consuming sweetened beverages in 2008 than in
        This was especially true among children age 12-to-14 months (14
        drank a sweetened beverage on a given day in 2008 versus 29 percent in
        2002) and children 18-to-20 months (29 percent in 2008 versus 47
        in 2002).
    --  On a given day 23 percent of toddlers 12-to-24 months and one third of
        preschoolers are consuming diets of less than the recommended 30-to-40
        percent of calories from fat.            Yet, 75 percent of
        are consuming too much saturated fat.

    --  Mothers are breastfeeding their children longer. In 2008, 33 percent
        nine-to-11 month olds are still receiving breast milk compared to just
        21 percent in 2002.

Other survey findings

    --  French fries are still the most popular vegetable among toddlers and
        preschoolers. However, among older babies there were improvements, and
        French fries are no longer ranked in the top five vegetables among
        infants age nine-to-11 months, compared to FITS 2002, when French
        ranked among the top vegetables in the diets of older infants on a
    --  There is a significant reduction in the number of infants, age
        four-to-11 months, consuming juice on a given day, versus 2002.
    --  A small but important number of older infants are not getting enough
        iron. Twelve percent of children from six-to-11 months of age are not
        getting enough iron on a given day.

    --  Seventy-one percent of toddlers and eighty-four percent of
        consume more sodium than recommended on a given day.

A dietary snapshot by developmental stage

The Nestle FITS 2008 findings provide insight into the diets of children at
key developmental stages--infants, toddlers and preschoolers. The good news is
that caregivers are hearing and following the feeding guidance for infants,
yet FITS 2008 shows that more progress is needed in the diets of toddlers and
preschoolers. Compared to FITS 2002, the number of months children breastfeed
is longer, which builds the child's immunity, aids a growing baby's brain and
eye development, and may help to lower the child's risk of developing
allergies and infections. What's more, the introduction of juice is being
delayed for infants, and fewer are consuming French fries, sweetened beverages
and sweets on a given day. While FITS 2008 shows positive trends in the diets
of infants, the data reveal that some older infants have low intakes of iron
and consumption of iron-fortified infant cereal is being stopped earlier.

As infants grow into toddlers, it is clear from the FITS 2008 findings that
more nutrition guidance for parents is needed for this important developmental
stage. Overall, on a given day, toddlers are meeting most of their nutrient
requirements for healthy growth and development, however, FITS data show gaps
in the intake of vegetables, fruit, fiber, vitamin E, potassium and total fat.
The data reflect promising downward trends among toddlers in the consumption
of French fries, sweets and sweetened beverages, but more improvement is

FITS 2008 provides a first-of-its-kind nutrition snapshot of preschoolers
(children ages 24-to-48 months). The findings show that on a given day, many
preschoolers have unhealthy eating patterns reflective of the diets of older
children and adults in the United States. In particular, preschoolers are not
consuming enough fruits and vegetables, fiber, potassium and vitamin E and are
taking in too much saturated fat and sodium.

Help for parents: Start Healthy, Stay Healthy((TM))( )

FITS 2002 was the foundation of the Start Healthy, Stay Healthy(TM) nutrition
system, Nestle's patent-pending stage-based nutrition system that combines
products, education and services to foster healthy growth and development and
the early establishment of healthy eating habits from birth to preschool.
Start Healthy, Stay Healthy Milestones Symbols(TM) direct parents to the
information and products tailored to their child's developmental stage. The
insights from FITS, along with dietary recommendations from the United States
Department of Agriculture (USDA), the National Academy of Sciences/Institute
of Medicine (NAS/ IOM) and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) are the
foundation of the Start Healthy, Stay Healthy feeding guidelines and

About Nestle 
Nestle Nutrition, part of Nestle S.A., the world leader in nutrition, health
and wellness is dedicated to infant nutrition, healthcare nutrition,
performance nutrition and weight management.  Gerber Products Company, founded
in 1928, officially joined the Nestle family on September 1, 2007.  Nestle and
Gerber's combined resources and scientific research expertise have enabled the
company to become a worldwide leader in early childhood nutrition. For
consumer information about Nestle Infant Nutrition products in the United
States visit

The Nestle Nutrition Institute is a multidisciplinary educational organization
dedicated to the science of healthy nutrition for people of all ages. The
Institute provides information, guidance and support to bridge the latest
scientific discoveries and their application to achieving optimal nutrition.
For more information about Nestle Nutrition Institute visit

For more information about Nestle visit

About Mathematica 
Mathematica, a nonpartisan research firm, provides a full range of research
and data collection services, including program evaluation and policy
research, survey design and data collection, research methods and standards,
and program management/data system support, to improve public well-being. Its
clients include federal and state governments, foundations, and private-sector
and international organizations. The employee-owned company, with offices in
Princeton, N.J., Ann Arbor, Mich., Cambridge, Mass., Chicago, Ill., Oakland,
Calif., and Washington, D.C., has conducted some of the most important studies
of healthcare, education, family support, employment, nutrition, and early
childhood policies and programs.

1. Not sponsored or endorsed by the USDA, NAS/IOM or AAP

    Emily Korns                                  Jessica Tolliver
    Nestle Infant Nutrition                      Carmichael Lynch Spong
    Office: (973) 593-7421                       Office : (212) 414-7124
    Mobile: (201) 259-3743                       Mobile : (917) 373-8067          

    David Mortazavi                              Brad Ferris
    Nestle Infant Nutrition                      Carmichael Lynch Spong
    Office: (973) 593-7460                       Office: (212) 414-7032
    Mobile: (646) 326-3926                       Mobile: (917) 318-7730      

SOURCE  Nestle

Emily Korns, Office: +1-973-593-7421, Mobile: +1-201-259-3743,, or David Mortazavi, Office: +1-973-593-7460,
Mobile: +1-646-326-3926,, both of Nestle Infant
Nutrition; or Jessica Tolliver, Office : +1-212-414-7124, Mobile :
+1-917-373-8067,, or Brad Ferris, Office:
+1-212-414-7032, Mobile: +1-917-318-7730,, both of
Carmichael Lynch Spong
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