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Majority of Young Children in California Eat Fast Food Regularly but Drink Less Soda

November 21, 2013

Policy Brief

Authors: Sue Holtby, MPH, Elaine Zahnd, PhD, David Grant, PhD

This policy brief examines the eating habits of children ages two to five years. Despite steady declines in soda consumption, 60 percent of children in this age group continue to eat fast food at least once a week. Among young Latino children, the rate is 70 percent; overall, one in ten young children eats three or more fast food meals per week. The majority of children also fall short of the state standard on fruit and vegetable consumption, with only 57 percent of parents reporting that their child ate at least five fruit and vegetable servings the previous day. Asian children have the lowest levels of fruit and vegetable consumption, and both Asian and Latino parents report lower levels of influence over their children’s diets than do White and African-American parents. Policies and education designed to reduce soda consumption have clearly had an effect, as these and other data show. Given the poor trajectory for children who are overweight before they reach age six, investments in programs that help reduce fast food consumption and promote eating more fruits and vegetables (for example, serving fruit instead of fruit juice) may be among the policy solutions that will help improve young children’s health.

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