Volume 108, Issue 6, Pages 1038-1047 (June 2008)
This position paper has expired and it has been reaffirmed to be updated. It is being updated as an evidence-based position paper using the Academy evidence analysis process.
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 overconsumption 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.