Student Well-Being

New Report on Children’s Dietary Habits Disappoints Educators

By Jessica Portner — September 10, 1997 2 min read

A report out last week that found only a fraction of children in the United States meet all the federal guidelines for a healthy diet has disappointed some education leaders who have strived over the past decade to improve students’ eating habits.

Only 1 percent of 2- to 19-year-olds ate a balanced diet, as recommended by the federal government, during the period reviewed, the study published in the Sept. 4 issue of the journal Pediatrics reports.

Federal food and nutrition guidelines suggest that people eat a range of foods from five food groups: grains, vegetables, fruit, dairy products, and meats.

Yet, researchers found that 40 percent of the children’s diets came from fat and added sugars, and 16 percent of the 3,300 children whose eating patterns were examined did not meet any of the dietary guidelines.

Conversely, the study found that 30 percent of the children met the recommendations for fruit, grain, meat, and dairy products, while 36 percent consumed the suggested amount of vegetables.

Hispanic and African-American children were less likely than white children to meet all the nutritional guidelines, according to the study.

The authors of the study, conducted by the federal National Institutes of Health, said that the findings point to the need to get children to eat less fatty food and more fresh vegetables, fruit, and grains.

Unhealthy eating patterns and high consumption of fatty foods can contribute to a range of illnesses later in life, past research has shown.

‘It’s Not Panic Time’

But the findings may not be as dire as they appear.

The subjects of the study were polled by telephone between 1989 and 1991. Adults monitored and reported the eating patterns of the children in the survey who were younger than 12.

Since then, educators have placed more emphasis on healthy eating practices--in the classroom as well as in the school lunch program.

In addition, although federal nutrition guidelines have been in place since the early 1980s, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s “food pyramid” was not introduced until 1992--after the survey was conducted.

Kathryn A. Munoz, one of the study’s authors, said that the graphic depiction may have helped parents and children make better choices.

“We would hope that currently they are consuming a little better foods,” she said last week.

Even by research standards, the time between the data gathering and publication of the study was lengthy. In large part, the authors attributed the lag time to the unavailability of the research methodology they used, which became functional just last year.

In the past decade, many schools have attempted to educate students about the benefits of a healthy diet and exercise, said Gary Marx, a spokesman for the American Association of School Administrators. Influencing change in eating habits that are often ingrained at home is challenging, he said.

“You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink,” Mr. Marx said.

But one dietary group said last week that the government’s study may be somewhat alarmist as it takes a broad look at young people’s eating habits.

“It’s not panic time in the old corral,” said Edith Howard Hogan, a spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association, based in Washington.

“This may be a call to eat better foods,” Ms. Hogan said, but “people aren’t doing a miserable job with feeding their children.”

Related Tags:

Events

School & District Management Live Event Education Week Leadership Symposium
Education Week's Premier Leadership Event for K12 School & District Leaders.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Law & Courts Webinar
The Future of Criminal Justice Reform: A Sphere Education Initiative Conversation
America’s criminal justice system is in crisis and calls for reform are dominating the national debate. Join Cato’s Sphere Education Initiative and Education Week for a webinar on criminal justice and policing featuring the nation’s
Content provided by Cato Institute
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Student Well-Being Webinar
Equity, Care and Connection: New SEL Tools and Practices to Support Students and Adults
As school districts plan to welcome students back into buildings for the upcoming school year, this is the perfect time to take a hard look at both our practices and our systems to build a
Content provided by Panorama Education

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Student Well-Being Whitepaper
The Complete Guide to SEL
This guide illustrates why SEL is more important now and what you should look for when implementing a social-emotional curriculum.
Content provided by Navigate360
Student Well-Being How Educators Are Approaching Summer Learning This Year
After a difficult year, schools adjust what's best for students as they customize summer learning, enrichment, and play opportunities.
9 min read
Image of kids with backpacks running outdoors.
iStock/Getty
Student Well-Being Cardona Releases First Wave of Aid to Help Schools Identify, Assist Homeless Students
Citing the urgency of identifying homeless students, the Education Department will release some relief aid targeted at their needs.
3 min read
Rycc Smith welcomes Montello Elementary School students as they board his bus outside the Lewiston, Maine school after the first day back in nearly a month on Jan. 21, 2021. The entire school district switched to all remote learning after an uptick in COVID-19 cases last month.
Elementary school students board a bus in Lewiston, Maine, after their first day back to in-person school in nearly a month on Jan. 21. Advocates say it has been more difficult to identify homelessness during remote learning, in part because they can't track changes in students' use of school transportation.
Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal via AP
Student Well-Being Spotlight Spotlight on Post-Pandemic Communications
In this Spotlight, review lessons from other leaders, evaluate what can be done to address the situations experienced and more.