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ADA report calls for action to improve kids’ diets

By Caroline Scott-Thomas , 19-Jan-2011

A new report from the American Dietetics Association (ADA) should act as a ‘call to action’ to engage families and communities in improving children’s diets, the association has said.

The ADA’s State of Family Nutrition and Physical Activity Report draws together research from US food, nutrition and health associations, including the ADA Foundation’s 2010 Family Nutrition and Physical Activity Survey, released in October last year. The ADA Foundation's survey polled 1,193 pairs of parents and their children, aged 8 to 17, about their nutrition knowledge, eating habits and physical activity, as well as parents’ awareness of their children’s behaviors, following up on a 2003 survey.

Registered dietitian and national education director for the ADA Foundation Dr. Katie Brown said: "While a shocking 17 percent of our nation's children are obese, most children are also lacking critical nutrients in their diets, leaving them in a state of malnourishment. On top of that, they are not getting the recommended amount of physical activity their bodies need to grow and thrive.”

The report highlighted significant differences between different ethnicities, with African-American children reporting snacking more often than Hispanic or Caucasian children – while watching TV (significantly more than Caucasian children), while doing homework, while playing computer games, while talking on the phone (significantly more than Caucasian and Hispanic) and before bedtime (significantly more than Hispanic children).

In addition, 22 percent of Caucasian children, 34 percent of African-American children and 38 percent of Hispanic children reported that they did not eat dinner every day.

However, the report also showed increasing parental engagement with actions that could help increase their children’s overall health. The percentage of children eating at home with their parents at least three days per week, for example, has jumped from 78 percent in 2003 to 92 percent in 2010. Those eating meals at home with their parents every day has also increased, from 52 percent to 73 percent.

“Information in this report should be a wakeup call for many Americans, but at the same time it provides us with a road map and strategies for making a positive impact in the health of our youth, and the future generations of Americans,” Brown said.

The full report is available online via this link .

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