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.