Proceedings of the Nutrition Society

Symposium on ‘Growing up with good nutrition: a focus on the first two decades’

Changing eating and physical activity patterns of US children

Rachel K. Johnsona1 c1

a1 Department of Nutrition and Food Sciences, 108 Morrill Hall, The University of Vermont, Burlington, VT 05405, USA


The number of US children who are overweight has more than doubled over the last decade. This change has broadened the focus of dietary guidance for children to address nutrient overconsumption and physical activity patterns. Total fat consumption expressed as a percentage of energy intake has decreased among US children. However, this decrease is largely the result of increased total energy intake in the form of carbohydrates and not necessarily due to decreased fat consumption. The majority of children aged 5–17 years are not meeting recommendations for Ca intakes. Much of this deficit is attributed to changing beverage consumption patterns, characterized by declining milk intakes and substantial increases in soft-drink consumption. On average, US children are not eating the recommended amounts of fruits and vegetables. US adolescents become less active as they get older, and one-quarter of all US children watch 4 h television each day, which is positively associated with increased BMI and skinfold thickness. There is an urgent need in the USA for effective prevention strategies aimed at helping children grow up with healthful eating and physical activity habits to achieve optimal health.


c1 Corresponding author: Dr Rachel K. Johnson, fax +1 802 656 0290, email