Feeding infants and toddlers study: What foods are infants and toddlers eating?

J Am Diet Assoc. 2004 Jan;104(1 Suppl 1):s22-30. doi: 10.1016/j.jada.2003.10.026.


Objective: To describe the food consumption patterns of US infants and toddlers, 4 to 24 months of age.

Design: Descriptive analysis of data collected in the 2002 Feeding Infants and Toddlers study based on telephone interviews and 24-hour dietary recalls.

Subjects: A national random sample of 3,022 infants and toddlers age 4 to 24 months.

Statistical analyses performed: The percentage of infants and toddlers consuming foods from specific food groups was estimated for six age groups, using a single 24-hour recall.

Results: Infants as young as 7 months of age showed food patterns that have been observed in older children and adults. From 18% to 33% of infants and toddlers between ages 7 and 24 months consumed no discrete servings of vegetables, and 23% to 33% consumed no fruits. French fries were one of the three most common vegetables consumed by infants 9 to 11 months of age. By 15 to 18 months, french fries were the most common vegetable. Almost half (46%) of 7- to 8-month-olds consumed some type of dessert, sweet, or sweetened beverage, and this percentage increased as age increased. By 19 to 24 months, 62% of toddlers consumed a baked dessert, 20% consumed candy, and 44% consumed a sweetened beverage.

Applications: Parents and caregivers should be encouraged to offer a wide variety of vegetables and fruits daily, with emphasis on dark green, leafy, and deep yellow vegetables and colorful fruits. They should offer desserts, sweets, sweetened beverages, and salty snacks only occasionally, offering nutrient-dense, age-appropriate foods as alternatives (eg, fruit, cheese, yogurt, and cereals). Water, milk, and 100% fruit juices should be offered as alternative beverages. Because family food choices influence what foods are offered to children, family-based approaches to developing healthy eating habits may be helpful.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Breast Feeding / statistics & numerical data
  • Cattle
  • Diet Records
  • Edible Grain
  • Fruit
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant Food / standards
  • Infant Formula / statistics & numerical data
  • Infant Nutritional Physiological Phenomena*
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Meat
  • Mental Recall
  • Milk / statistics & numerical data
  • Nutrition Surveys*
  • United States
  • Vegetables