The quality of girl's diets declines and tracks across middle childhood

Michelle L. Mannino, Yoonna Lee, Diane C. Mitchell, Helen Smiciklas-Wright, Leann L. Birch

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

74 Scopus citations


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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number5
JournalInternational Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity
StatePublished - Feb 27 2004

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation
  • Nutrition and Dietetics


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