Toddlers' transition to table foods: Impact on nutrient intakes and food patterns

J Am Diet Assoc. 2004 Jan;104(1 Suppl 1):s38-44. doi: 10.1016/j.jada.2003.10.025.


Objective: To describe the differential changes in average intakes of nutrients and food groups among higher versus lower table food consumers during the transition from baby foods to table foods.

Design: A comparative analysis of food and nutrient intakes in the lowest versus highest quartile of energy from table foods based on 24-hour dietary recall data.

Subjects: A national random sample of 1,677 US infants and toddlers 9 to 24 months in the 2002 Feeding Infants and Toddlers Study (FITS).

Statistical analyses: Mean and percentiles of energy intake from table foods; comparisons of mean daily nutrient intake and the percentages consuming various foods and beverages in the lowest versus highest quartile of energy from table foods, by age.

Results: The mean percentage of energy from table foods increased from 25% at 9 to 11 months to 63% at 19 to 24 months. Mean intakes of energy, macronutrients, sodium, folate, and fiber were significantly higher for children 9 to 11, 12 to 14, and 15 to 18 months in the highest table food energy quartiles compared to the lowest. Mean calcium intakes were significantly lower among toddlers 15 to 24 months consuming high table food energy, and associated with lower milk consumption. A higher percentage of children in the lowest quartiles of energy from table food were consuming deep yellow vegetables among ages 9 through 14 months. The percentage of children consuming popular items such as pizza, carbonated sodas, French fries, candy and other sweets was higher among those who consumed more energy from table foods in every age group.

Applications: The epidemic of overweight children mandates helping parents teach healthy eating habits early. Messages that educate parents and caregivers about toddler feeding include: (1) offer a wide variety of nutritious foods, particularly fruits and vegetables, in forms that are developmentally appropriate, (2) continue to feed foods that are good sources of iron, such as iron-fortified infant cereals, ready-to-eat cereals that are high in iron, and meats, (3) to ensure adequate calcium intake, build the habit of drinking milk, and (4) teach children to recognize and honor their hunger and satiety cues.

MeSH terms

  • Child Nutrition Sciences / education*
  • Diet Records
  • Energy Intake
  • Feeding Behavior*
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant Food / statistics & numerical data*
  • Infant Nutritional Physiological Phenomena*
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Nutrition Surveys