National study finds diets remain poor for most American children, disparities persist

Children's Diet Quality

Despite consuming fewer sugar-sweetened beverages and more whole grains, most American children and adolescents still eat poorly – and sociodemographic disparities persist, according to an 18-year national study between 1999 and 2016 of U.S. children’s dietary trends. This research analyzed the diets of more than 31,000 U.S. youth, 2-19 years old, based on national data across nine cycles of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) between 1999 and 2016. They assessed each child’s diet as poor, intermediate or ideal, based on three validated dietary scores, all of which are designed to measure adherence to accepted nutritional guidelines. The study finds that a majority — 56 percent — of American children and adolescents had diets of poor nutritional quality in 2016.

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