FGP for Young Children, based on the actual eating patterns of children aged 2 to 6 years, which aims to simplify educational messages and focus on young children’s food preferences and nutritional requirements (USDA, 2003b; ADA, 2004).

These FGPs offer recommended daily serving sizes for each of the food groups, including bread, cereal, rice, and pasta; fruits; vegetables; milk, yogurt, and cheese; meat, beans, eggs, and nuts; and fats, oils, and sweets. Considerations used in determining serving sizes are the amount of a food that provides key nutrients, ease of use, and commonly recognized household measures of food and equivalents (USDA, 1999, 2000).

Unfortunately, despite the availability of the FGP and its adapted version specifically for younger children, most American children do not meet the recommended servings for fruit, dairy, and grain groups; and they do not meet the Dietary Guidelines’ recommendations for total and saturated fat (ADA, 2004) (see Chapter 3).

The committee acknowledges that parents may have a difficult time understanding how portion sizes should be distributed for their children across an entire day, particularly when they are making selections at full-service and fast food restaurants. Another confounding factor is that younger children tend to eat smaller portions, compared to standardized serving sizes, more frequently throughout the day (McConahy et al., 2004). The current educational tools do not provide guidance pertinent to these considerations. The committee therefore encourages enhancing or adapting the existing FGP model,5 or developing a new food-guidance system and relevant educational materials, that will convey how portions should be distributed throughout the day for children of different age groups. (For example, if a child is in a particular age group, he or she should eat a certain proportion of energy at each meal—for example, 20 percent at breakfast, 30 percent at lunch, 30 percent at dinner, and 20 percent for snacks, and the appropriate temporal distribution of snacks should account for the duration of fasting overnight and for variations in daytime energy demands due to age and activity.)

Because such an enhancement could be used by parents to determine a single restaurant meal’s percentage of their child’s daily required total energy intake, encouraging restaurants to adopt this educational tool may promote children’s consumption of smaller food portions. Additionally, the full-service and fast food restaurant industries should provide general nutri-

5

An example of an adapted FGP is the Radiant Pyramid, a daily food guide based on the concept of nutrient density. The most nutrient-dense food choices, at the bottom of the pyramid, should be consumed in appropriate serving sizes frequently, whereas the most energy-dense food choices at the (much smaller) top of the pyramid should be consumed only occasionally (Porter Novelli, 2003).



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