Fruit and vegetable intake in young children

J Am Coll Nutr. 1998 Aug;17(4):371-8. doi: 10.1080/07315724.1998.10718778.


Background: Current recommendations call for most Americans, 2 years of age and over, to ent more fruits and vegetables.

Objective: To determine, in a sample of healthy children, the extent to which young children's diets include the recommended numbers of fruit and vegetable servings per day.

Design: Cross-sectional study.

Setting: A general primary care health center in upstate New York.

Participants: One-hundred-sixteen 2-year-old children and 107 5-year-old children, who were scheduled for a non-acute visit, and their parent/primary caretaker (PPC) were recruited between 1992 and 1993.

Measurements: For 168 children (94 2-year-old children and 74 5-year-old children), mean dietary intakes were calculated from 7 days of written dietary records, entered and analyzed using the Minnesota Nutrition Data System. The numbers of fruit and vegetable servings/day were calculated according to USDA definitions of serving sizes.

Results: The 2-year-old children consumed the same amounts of fruits, 100% fruit juice, and total fruits and vegetables as the 5-year-old children (0.8 and 0.7 fruit servings/day, 1.0 and 0.8 juice servings/day, and 2.2 and 2.1 total fruit and vegetable servings/day, respectively). Fruit juice accounted for 54% of all fruit servings consumed and 42% of all fruit and vegetable servings consumed. Total fruit consumption (fruits plus juice) was correlated with carbohydrate intake (R = 0.46), and inversely correlated with total fat and saturated fat intakes (R = -0.48 and R = -0.36, respectively, both p < 0.0001) and with cholesterol intake (R = -0.21, p < 0.01). Citrus fruit and juice consumption was strongly correlated with vitamin C intake (R = 0.56, p < 0.0001). Total vegetable consumption was strongly correlated with beta-carotene and vitamin A intakes (R = 0.63 and R = 0.32, respectively, both p < 0.0001). Total fruit and vegetable consumption correlated with intakes of beta-carotene, vitamin A, vitamin C, fiber, and potassium (R = 0.55, R = 0.31, R = 0.56, R = 0.58, and R = 0.66, respectively, all p < 0.0001). Forty percent of 2-year-old children and 50% of 5-year-old children consumed < 2 servings/day of fruits and vegetables. Ninety-five percent of children consuming > or = 2 servings/day of fruits and vegetables met the RDA for vitamin C vs. 50% of those consuming < 2 servings/day (p < 0.001).

Conclusions: In this study, preschool-aged children consumed, on average, about 80% of the recommended fruit servings/day, but only 25% of the recommended vegetable servings/day. Low intakes of fruits and vegetables were associated with inadequate intakes of vitamin A, vitamin C, and dietary fiber, in addition to high intakes of total fat and saturated fat.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Anthropometry
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Diet*
  • Fruit*
  • Humans
  • Nutrition Policy
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Vegetables*