Data Reveals Problematic Eating Patterns, Nutrient Intakes and Lifestyle Behaviors Among Infants and Toddlers
(FLORHAM PARK, New Jersey) – April 11, 2011 – On Sunday, April 10, Ronette Briefel, Senior Fellow at Mathematica Policy Research, presented key findings from the landmark 2008 Nestlé Feeding Infants and Toddlers Study (FITS) at Experimental Biology 2011 in Washington D.C.  Briefel, who served as the study’s principal investigator, discussed FITS 2008 during the Preventing Childhood Obesity session, shedding light on the troublesome eating patterns and lifestyle behaviors among U.S. infants, toddlers, and preschoolers. The study also reveals the disparity between parents’ perceptions and the reality of their children’s diet and weight, indicating that parents and caregivers can do more to improve eating and lifestyle habits of toddlers and preschoolers.
“The FITS data fills an important gap in our knowledge of the dietary habits and lifestyle behaviors of children from birth to 48 months. This knowledge is crucial in helping us understand and address the factors that may set the stage for unhealthy behaviors into adulthood,” said Dr. Kathleen Reidy, Head, Nutrition Science, Meals & Drinks, Nestlé Nutrition.  “We are very happy to have had this information presented at this conference that is attended by so many leading nutrition scientists.”
A collaborative effort between Nestlé researchers, Mathematica Policy Research and expert scientific advisors from several different universities, FITS 2008 is the largest and most comprehensive population based study of the diets of young children in the U.S. In December 2010, select findings from the study were published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association (JADA), the most widely-read peer reviewed journal for dietitians and nutritionists.[1]
Key data from FITS 2008 regarding early childhood nutrition and lifestyle habits that were discussed during the presentation at Experimental Biology include:
  • Fruit and Vegetable Intake
    • Most parents think that their toddler or preschooler consumed enough fruits and vegetables.
    • One in four preschoolers did not consume a discrete serving of fruit and one in three did not consume a discrete serving of vegetables on a given day.
  • Sweetened Beverage Consumption
    • Almost half of toddlers (44 percent) and preschoolers (48 percent) consumed sugar-sweetened beverages on a given day.
  • Children’s Weight
    • Most parents considered their child’s weight to be ‘about right’, but parents were three to four times more likely to think their toddler or preschooler was underweight (8-9 percent) than overweight (2 percent);
    • Conversely, national U.S. data show that 21 percent of 2- to 5-year-olds are overweight or obese.
  • “Screen” Time
    • One in four preschoolers exceeded recommendations to limit television screen time to two hours or less per day.
    • Among those who watched television or videos, one in four had a television in the room where they sleep.
 “The FITS data indicate that the toddler and preschool period is a critical time to help parents instill healthful, long-term dietary and activity behaviors in their children and family in order to reduce the risk of childhood obesity,” said Ronette Briefel, Senior Fellow at Mathematica Policy Research and principal investigator for the FITS study. “With childhood obesity reaching epidemic proportions, knowing more about infants' and toddlers' eating habits can help parents, health care professionals and nutritionists address this issue more effectively.”
For an overview of the FITS findings that Dr. Briefel presented, click here. To see the comprehensive results that were published in the December supplement of JADA, click here.
About Nestlé Nutrition and Gerber
Nestlé Nutrition, part of Nestlé S.A., a world leader in nutrition, health and wellness and is dedicated to infant, healthcare and performance nutrition, and weight management. Gerber Products Company, founded in 1928, officially joined the Nestlé family on September 1, 2007. Nestlé and Gerber’s combined resources and scientific research expertise have enabled the company to become a worldwide leader in early childhood nutrition. Gerber produces more than 200 food products, all of which are part of its proprietary Start Healthy, Stay Healthy™ integrated nutrition system. Start Healthy, Stay Healthy™ combines products, educational resources and services that are designed to encourage the early establishment of healthy eating habits in children from birth to preschool.
For more information on Nestlé Nutrition, visit; for more information on Gerber, visit 
About Mathematica
Mathematica Policy Research, a nonpartisan research firm, provides a full range of research and data collection services, including program evaluation and policy research, survey design and data collection, research assessment and interpretation, and program performance/data management, to improve public well-being. Its clients include federal and state governments, foundations, and private-sector and international organizations. The employee-owned company, with offices in Princeton, N.J., Ann Arbor, Mich., Cambridge, Mass., Chicago, Ill., Oakland, Calif., and Washington, D.C., has conducted some of the most important studies of nutrition, health care, education, international, disability, family support, employment, and early childhood policies and programs.


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