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Almost half of kids ages 1 to 5 don’t eat a daily veggie (and one-third don’t eat fruit)

CDC report shows kids aren't eating enough fruits and vegetables

A family enjoying a fast-food meal together

According to a new report by the CDC, a surprising number of children in the U.S. are missing fruits and vegetables from their daily diet. The report comes from data compiled from the 2021 National Survey of Children’s Health, where the parents of 18,386 children were asked to report on how often their children ate fruits and vegetables. The results were both a shocking and eye-opening look at the diet of young children in America.

The results

The report found that approximately one in three children aren’t eating fruit daily, while almost 50% of children aren’t eating vegetables daily. The CDC recommends that children consume at least one cup of fruits and vegetables a day to ensure proper nutrition, with that number increasing as they get older. Proper nutrition is an important step in helping children grow and develop, as well as to create healthy eating habits as they get older and make their own nutritional decisions.

A young girl eating a fast-food meal

The rise of sugary drinks

Whether it’s juice, soda, yogurt drinks, or even flavored water, children are drinking sugar more now than ever before. The report found that 57% of children drank a sugar-sweetened beverage at least once in the week prior to the survey.

Toddler eating vegetables
New Africa/Shutterstock

Varied responses

Although the results may be shocking, they do vary from state to state and there were some large discrepancies. For example, 38.6% of kids in Maine reported drinking a sugary drink at least once in the week before the survey, while that number rose to 79.3% in Mississippi. In Vermont, one-third of children didn’t eat a vegetable daily in the week before the survey, while in Louisiana, that number was just over two-thirds. The report did note that only the frequency of eating was noted, and not the actual amount consumed, and respondents were only asked to comment on the week before the survey, so the results may not be typical.

Fruits in a bowl and on a table with muffins
Jane Doan/Pexels

Addressing the need

While proper nutrition is necessary for a child’s development, many parents don’t always have access to fruits and vegetables. According to the report, the percentage of children who did not eat a daily fruit or vegetable was higher among those who lived in households with limited food sufficiency. “Federally funded programs, such as produce voucher programs and the Child and Adult Care Food Programs, have resulted in serving more nutritious foods to children,” the CDC reports.

Reports like this shed light on just how much food insecurity can impact everyone, including children, but also how important it is to make healthy choices daily to ensure kids are getting the nutrition they need for proper growth and development. Limiting a child’s access to sugar-sweetened drinks can help prevent future health problems associated with sugar consumption. Introducing kids to a healthy diet when they’re younger can also help them make better food choices as they get older and start to make their own nutritional decisions.

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Kelli Catana
Kelli is a freelance writer who has covered the world of entertainment, pop culture, parenting, and lifestyle for various…
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