Nestle Nutrition study shows children develop unhealthy eating habits before starting school

Oct. 5—A new study by Nestle Nutrition shows that American children as young as 12 months develop unhealthy dietary patterns, which may lead to obesity later in life.

The results of the study should come as no surprise to many school nutrition directors, who have lamented recent attacks from parents, media and others blaming their programs for the increase in childhood obesity.

“I don’t know why all of a sudden K-12 feeding became the focal point of obesity in the United States,” said Brendan Ryan, foodservice director at 8,500-student Framingham (Mass.) School District, in FoodService Director’s October 2012 cover story “Legislating Health.” “Why are we being charged as the cure-all? The kids go home and they lead a latchkey lifestyle and it’s sedentary. They go home and they eat a bag of potato chips, and all that we’ve done is for naught. You just ask, ‘What are we doing here?’ It can’t all be put on the food.”

The Nestle study found that parents need better nutrition guidance to help their children develop healthy eating habits.

“We’re seeing poor eating habits starting early in life, and they mirror those of older children and adults,” Dr. Kathleen Reidy, global head of nutrition science, baby food, at Nestle Nutrition, said in a press release. “It’s important to establish the foundation for healthy diets early in life when eating habits and preferences are being formed. It is much easier to establish good habits when children are young rather than try to correct poor habits later.”

The study also found that toddlers from the age of 12 months and up consumed one-third of their daily calories from snacking between meals.

The Nestle Feeding Infants and Toddlers Study began in 2002. With more than 3,200 children in the research, it is the largest study of diets and eating habits of infants, toddlers and preschoolers in the United States.