Children, older adults may eat healthier than other ages

November 30, 2012

A study published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics shows that Americans’ eating habits fall short of nutritional recommendations, with some groups doing worse than others. The purpose of this study was to use the Healthy Eating Index–2005, a measure of diet quality in terms of conformance to the 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, to describe the diet quality of Americans by varying sociodemographic characteristics in order to provide insight as to where diets need to improve.

The Healthy Eating Index–2005 scores were estimated using one day of dietary intake data provided by participants in the 2003–2004 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, which included 3,286 children (ages 2–17), 3,690 young and middle-aged adults (ages 18–64), and 1,296 older adults (age 65+). Each subset of people was assigned a score between zero and 100 based on the percentage of the USDA recommendation for different food groups, such as fruit, vegetables, grains, milk, meat, and beans they consumed each day.

Overall, the researchers found that children and adults as groups each scored 56, while seniors scored higher with 65, meaning they did a better job. Nobody came close to a perfect score of 100. The researchers found further differences when they looked at race and income. Hispanics scored better than African Americans and Caucasians across many different food groups, with Hispanic children getting closer to the recommended amounts of fruit and vegetables compared to Caucasian children, and closer to the recommended amounts of fruit compared to African American children.

The researchers said that children from lower income families were meeting more of the USDA recommendations than wealthy children in several food groups. However, adults did seem to meet more of the USDA recommendations as their incomes increased.