Reports from the national dietary surveys usually provide limited details of the food and nutrient intakes of infants (ages <12 months) and toddlers (ages 12–24 months). Yet the first 2 years of life are associated with a transition from a largely milk-based diet to an increasingly complex diet that includes a variety of common foods.
As discussed in Chapter 3, food preferences develop early in life and have been shown to predict consumption habits. Thus, it is important to understand the overall nutritional adequacy and nature of the diets consumed by infants and toddlers. The 2002 Feeding Infants and Toddlers Study has provided important information about the nutrient intakes, food group consumption, and meal and snack patterns for a large, nationally representative, random sample of 3,022 infants and toddlers ages 4 to 24 months (Devaney et al., 2004; Fox et al., 2004; Skinner et al., 2004a,b). FITS intake data are based on multiple-pass 24-hour dietary recalls conducted with a parent or caregiver.
The usual nutrient intakes, from both foods and dietary supplements, of young (4–6 months) and older (7–11 months) infants exceeded the AI, often with the 10th percentile of usual intake either equaling or exceeding the AI (Devaney et al., 2004). The estimated prevalence of nutrient inadequacy for older infants was relatively low for iron (7.5 percent) and zinc (4.2 percent). For toddlers, the prevalence of inadequacy was low (<1 percent) for most nutrients, except for vitamin E. More than half (58 percent) of toddlers had vitamin E intakes below the EAR. The mean intakes for calcium and vitamin D exceeded the AI. The percentages of usual intakes that exceeded the UL were less than 1 percent for most nutrients. However, a relatively high percentage of toddlers had usual intakes for vitamin A (35 percent) and zinc (43 percent) that exceeded the UL. Overall the data suggest that the diets of infants and toddlers are nutritionally adequate, with less than 1 percent of total nutrient intakes coming from supplements. The mean, median, and estimated percentiles of the usual calorie intake distribution all exceeded the comparable EER. The mean usual calorie intake was higher than the mean EER by 10 percent for young infants, 23 percent for older infants, and 31 percent by toddlers. Maternal employment status did not influence calorie intake. The mean intakes of fat, carbohydrates, and protein of young infants exceeded the AI, as did the mean intakes of fat and carbohydrates for older infants. Thirty-eight percent of toddlers had fat intakes outside the AMDR: 29 percent had fat intake below 30 percent of calories and 9 percent had intakes above 40 percent of