Page Banner

United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: Position of the American Dietetic Association: Nutrition Guidance for Health Children Ages 2 to 11 Years

item Nicklas, Theresa
item Hayes, Dayle

Submitted to: Journal Of The American Dietetic Association
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 5/1/2008
Publication Date: 6/1/2008
Citation: Nicklas, T.A., Hayes, D. 2008. Position of the American Dietetic Association: Nutrition guidance for healthy children ages 2 to 11 years. Journal of The American Dietetic Association. 108:1038-1047.

Interpretive Summary: Most American children do not meet the MyPyramid recommendations for fruit, grain, and dairy groups. In addition, the majority of children do not meet the 2005 Dietary Guidelines recommendations for total and saturated fats. One tool for helping the public meet the 2005 Dietary Guidelines is the USDA’s MyPyramid for kids, which is based on actual eating patterns of this group. Key messages of the 2005 Dietary Guidelines are to encourage most Americans to eat fewer calories, be more active, and make wiser food choices. In addition to providing the key messages, there is a need to incorporate behavioral strategies that build on enhancing self-efficacy and self-esteem in children. Children need to develop confidence that they can successfully change their eating and physical activity patterns. Parents and other caregivers need to be educated on mealtime behaviors that promote the adoption of more healthful eating behaviors early in life. The ongoing need for nutrition intervention and education with children and their parents and caregivers can and should be met by food and nutrition professionals who have the training and skills to meet those needs. Food and nutrition professionals can take an active role in promoting dietary recommendations and guidelines for children after the age of 2 years. The American Dietetic Association has joined forces with many other health professional organizations as well as the food and beverage industries to work toward translating dietary recommendations and guidelines into achievable and healthful messages for all children in the United States.

Technical Abstract: It is the position of the American Dietetic Association that children ages 2 to 11 years should achieve optimal physical and cognitive development, attain a healthy weight, enjoy food, and reduce the risk of chronic disease through appropriate eating habits and participation in regular physical activity. The health status of American children has generally improved during the past 3 decades. However, the number of children who are overweight has more than doubled among 2- to 5-year-old children and more than tripled among 6- to 11-year-old children, which has major health consequences. This increase in childhood overweight has broadened the focus of dietary guidance to address children's over-consumption of energy-dense, nutrient-poor foods and beverages and physical activity patterns. Health promotion will help reduce diet-related risks of chronic degenerative diseases, such as cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, cancer, obesity, and osteoporosis. This position reviews what US children are eating and explores trends in food and nutrient intakes as well as the impact of school meals on children's diets. Dietary recommendations and guidelines and the benefits of physical activity are also discussed. The roles of parents and caregivers in influencing the development of healthful eating behaviors are highlighted. Specific recommendations and sources of nutrition messages to improve the nutritional well-being of children are provided for food and nutrition professionals.

Last Modified: 08/21/2017
Footer Content Back to Top of Page