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French Fries Are The No. 1 Vegetable Toddlers Eat, Study Says

ARLINGTON, Va. (WJZ) -- A new study shows major gaps in food choices in youngster's diets.

More than 27 percent of young children do not consume a single discrete serving of vegetables on any given day, according to the Feeding Infants and Toddlers Study.

Among the vegetables toddlers do eat -- French fries are the no. 1 vegetable consumed.

According to the study, after a child turns one their food choices tend to change as they eat more family foods.

By age two, many children have preferences and eating habits that will last their lifetime -- and that's why health experts want parents to help their children create healthy eating behaviors.

"Good nutrition during a child's early years is particularly critical because it sets the stage for healthy eating throughout life," said Dr. Wendy Johnson with Nutrition, Health and Wellness for Nestlé USA. "Exposing young children to a rainbow of fruits and vegetables, and a variety of foods and flavors, is important as children are forming their tastes and eating habits for life."

For the study, nearly 10,000 parents and caregivers of children under the age of four were surveyed for the study. Gerber began the study in 2002. It's now conducted by Nestlé Research.

The study also found that young children consume sweets and excess sodium.

Other things FITS found:

  • Iron: The percentage of infants between 6 and 12 months old who do not consume the recommended amount of iron has increased from 7.5 percent in 2002 to 18 percent in 2016. Iron is a critical nutrient to support learning ability and brain development. Beef and iron-fortified cereal are excellent sources of iron.
  • Vitamin D: Fewer than 25 percent of infants get the recommended amount of vitamin D, which the body needs for strong bones and teeth. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends a daily vitamin D supplement for infants who are exclusively breastfed or receive less than a liter of infant formula per day. Similarly, about 80% of 1- to 3-year-olds fall short on vitamin D. Milk and yogurt are good food sources of vitamin D.
  • Fiber: Fewer than 10 percent of children 12 to 48 months old get adequate amounts of dietary fiber. Fiber is found in whole grains, fruits, vegetables, lentils and beans.
  • Sodium: Forty percent of 1-year-olds and 70-75 percent of 2- to 3-year-olds exceed the upper limit for sodium. Processed meats like hot dogs, lunch meat, sausage and bacon are leading sources of sodium among young children. These foods also contribute saturated fat to their diets.
  • Sugar-sweetened beverages: About 10 percent of infants 6-12 months, 30 percent of 1-year-olds and 45 percent of 2- to 3-year-olds drink sugar-sweetened beverages on a given day, with fruit flavored drinks being the most common.

Researchers said parents should encourage children to try a variety of vegetables and it could take up to 10 times for kids to accept new foods.

They suggest the following foods for children:

  • For infants: include pureed or mashed peas, sweet potatoes, carrots, butternut squash, and green beans.
  • For toddlers and preschoolers: consider mashed or small, soft cooked dices of sweet potatoes, peas, green beans, carrots, red peppers or zucchini.
  • At mealtime, finger foods including red/green pepper slices, cooked broccoli pieces and cucumber slices can spark some kid-friendly creativity.
  • Need some new side dishes they'll love? Bake "fries" from a variety of vegetables including zucchini, eggplant, carrots and butternut squash.
  • Try double dipping at snack time – dip small bite sized veggies in veggies – like mild salsas, or try a bean dip, guacamole or hummus.

Learn more about the study here.

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