Open Access Research

The quality of girls' diets declines and tracks across middle childhood

Michelle L Mannino1, Yoonna Lee2, Diane C Mitchell3, Helen Smiciklas-Wright4 and Leann L Birch5*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Human Development and Family Studies, The Pennsylvania State University, S-110 South Henderson, University Park, PA 16802, USA

2 Department of Food and Nutrition, Seoul National University, Shilim-dong, San 56-1, Kwanak-gu, Seoul, Korea

3 Department of Nutritional Sciences, The Pennsylvania State University, 5 Henderson Building, University Park, PA 16802, USA

4 Department of Nutritional Sciences, The Pennsylvania State University, 5 Henderson Building, University Park, PA 16802, USA

5 Distinguished Professor, Department of Human Development and Family Studies, The Pennsylvania State University, 105N White Building, University Park, PA 16802, USA

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International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity 2004, 1:5  doi:10.1186/1479-5868-1-5

Published: 27 February 2004

Abstract

Background

Food group intakes by US children are below recommendations and micronutrient inadequacies have been reported. There are few longitudinal data that focus on developmental changes in food and nutrient intake from early to middle childhood. We examined changes in nutrient and food group intakes over time and the tracking of intakes across middle childhood in a longitudinal sample of girls.

Methods

Three multiple-pass 24-hour diet recalls were conducted in a sample of 181 non-Hispanic White girls at ages 5, 7, and 9 years. Food and nutrient data were averaged across 3 days. Analyses of time effects were conducted using repeated measures analysis of variance and tracking of intakes was assessed via rank analysis.

Results

We found significant decreases in nutrient densities (intakes per 1000 kcal) of vitamins C and D, calcium, phosphorus, magnesium and zinc at age 9. Girls maintained their relative quartile positions for these micronutrients from ages 5–9. Analysis of food group data showed similar trends. At age 9, significantly fewer girls were meeting the recommendations for dairy, fruit and vegetable servings than at age 5 and girls also tended to remain in their respective quartiles over time, especially for fruit and dairy intakes.

Conclusions

These results highlight the importance of developing healthy eating practices during early childhood when caretakers have considerable control over children's food intake.