The Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee established jointly by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) came out with a report this week. It is a lengthy report based on a lot of data. Most of their conclusions and recommendations are not really unexpected or surprising – cut down on fat, sugar and salt; manage total energy intake; engage in physical activity etc. We have heard them all one way or another.

What caught my interest was data on top 5 dietary sources of energy for children and adolescents, and in particular, for children 2-3 years old and 4-8 years old. Here is a portion of this table for these two age groups:

Grain based desserts include cakes, cookies, doughnuts, pies, crips, cobblers and granola bars. 100% fruit juice does not include orange or grapefruit juice.

Nearly 30% of the average daily caloric intake for the two age groups is delivered by these top 5 food groups. A quick look at these food groups confirms the carb-rich diet of today’s children (and adults alike).

Another troubling fact is that 35% of calories in a typical American diet (both kids and adults) comes from added sugar and solid fats. This is more than double the amount recommended by different agencies.

There is no shortage of data to prove that our diets and eating behaviors are not so healthy. There is also no shortage of blame being passed around – profit-hungry food industry, aggressive food marketing to children, poor quality of school nutrition, lack of physical activity and high cost of healthful foods. Again we have heard them all one way or another!

The report recognizes the challenges in changing this pattern of unhealthy eating, but does little to emphasize the importance of personal responsibility. It seems to imply a command-and-control, top-down type of an approach rather than empowering individuals and parents to make small changes on a daily basis. Individuals can make a difference, but they seem to think that the system is far stronger than the individual.

What do you think? What small changes can you make to make sure your family and children do not fall into the average category?

Have a great weekend!


Ages 2-3 Years Ages 4-8 Years
Total Avg kCalories/Day 1471 1802
Rank 1 Food Group Whole Milk Grain based desserts
(104 kCal) (136 kCal)
Rank 2 Food Group 100% Fruit Juice Yeast breads
(93 kCal) (98 kCal)
Rank 3 Food Group Reduced Fat Milk Pasta & Pasta Dishes
(91 kCal) (97 kCal)
Rank 4 Food Group Pasta & Pasta Dishes Pizza
(86 kCal) (95 kCal)
Rank 5 Food Group Grain based desserts Reduced Fat Milk
(68 kCal) (95 kCal)