Tuesday, July 26, 2011

No More Clean Plate Club

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July 26, 2011

No More Clean Plate Club:  
Nutrition and Exercise in the Early Years  
In a new brief, Early Childhood Policy Focus: Healthy Eating and Physical Activity, Child Trends reviews recent data and current research on nutrition and exercise habits of young children under the age of six.  A number of factors affect these habits, including personal choices by parents and children, financial constraints (such as the availability, accessibility, and cost of healthy options), and public policies. Research on these factors offers insights into ways to encourage the development of healthy eating and physical fitness habits in early childhood and beyond.

It is well known by now that poor diet and lack of exercise contribute to obesity, which has been associated with higher rates of many diseases (e.g. diabetes and heart disease).  According to the most recent Healthy Eating Index, the US Department of Agriculture's measure of diet quality, children (ages 2-5) scored an average of 60 (of 100) points for healthy eating. The wide availability and variety of passive entertainment media (television, video games, computers, etc.) may be negatively affecting the level of children's physical activity.    

The brief notes several ways that state and local policies support better nutrition for low-income households, such as through nutrition assistance programs and through state policies on housing and food assistance that directly affect food insecurity.  Policy makers might also consider improving access to healthier foods in state- and federally-funded food programs, and improving neighborhood access to healthier food choices and to safe, affordable exercise options.  

About the Early Childhood Highlights Series...
The Early Childhood Highlights series is intended to provide a snapshot of the latest research on early childhood released by Child Trends and other leading researchers working on young children's issues.

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