But there’s been little progress in curbing unwholesome consumption of processed meats, refined grains and salt and in increasing consumption of health-promoting vegetables, fish and shellfish and plant-based protein. The average daily intake of fruits and vegetables is now a mere 1.8 servings, not the four or five servings recommended, the study showed. Instead of three daily servings of whole grains, children are consuming less than one.
And while consumption of sugary drinks has dropped significantly, “added sugars from foods hasn’t gone down,” Dr. Mozaffarian said. “There’s still a lot of added sugars in breakfast cereals, cookies, cakes and candy in children’s diets.”
Given how bad youthful nutrition was before Covid-19, I fear that the pandemic could further undermine it, especially for children from low-income families, who may be missing meals at schools that are closed or whose parents are now not getting paid at all. Unfortunately, the least nourishing foods available to Americans are also most often the cheapest.
Still, I join Dr. Mozaffarian and other nutrition experts in hoping that during the near-isolation forced on so many of us, American families will have discovered — or rediscovered — their kitchens, are involving the children in food preparation, and adults and children are sitting down together to eat the same foods.
Dr. Suanne Kowal-Connelly, pediatrician with the Long Island Federally Qualified Health Center in Roosevelt, N.Y., has worked hard to help children develop healthy food preferences. In an interview, she explained that most preferences are learned in the first two years of life, a fact that all too often is exploited to children’s detriment in ads and store placement for nutritionally deficient products.
Have you noticed that sugary cereals marketed for children are nearly always on the lower shelves and that candy and cookies are often stacked near checkout counters?
“We should be helping children develop a taste for healthy foods and discourage salty, sugary, fatty foods in the first years of life,” Dr. Kowal-Connelly said in an interview. I recall my young sons eating the (defrosted) frozen mixed vegetables I put on their highchair trays as finger food, and a few years later, chomping on raw celery and carrots dipped in a light dressing while dinner was being prepared. There were no chips, candies or sodas in the house.