By Erin Blakemore,
Nutritional guidelines stress the importance of a varied diet of fruits and veggies. But how much do kids really consume? A new data brief from the National Center for Health Statistics sheds light on the eating habits of children and teens — and shows that while most kids are eating vegetables, they eat less fruit as they grow older.
Between 2015 and 2018, the data shows, about 75 percent of kids and adolescents ate fruit on a given day. More than 90 percent ate vegetables.
While 90 percent of 2- to 5-year-olds ate fruit on a given day, only 64.3 percent of 12- to 19-year-olds did the same. Younger kids were more likely to consume fruit juice than teens, and outpaced older children on whole fruit consumption.
When it came to vegetables, the playing field was more level. But children were far less likely to consume dark green vegetables than starchy, red or orange ones. Fewer than 1 in 5 kids ate dark green vegetables on a given day, and nearly 4 in 5 ate a red or orange vegetable. More adolescents than younger kids ate dark green vegetables daily.
Kids’ healthy food choices varied by income, too. Children who lived in households with incomes below poverty level ate fewer citrus, melons or berries and less whole fruit than their wealthier counterparts.
The data comes from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, an ongoing program that asks a nationally representative sample of Americans questions about what they eat in an attempt to learn more about the relationship between diet and health. The Agriculture Department recommends children eat a variety of fruit and veggies a day — between 1 and 2 cups of fruit and between 1 and 3 cups of vegetables, depending on age and sex.
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