Volume 80, Number 2 March/April 2009
Overweight among U.S. children and adolescents has reached an epidemic proportion, placing them at risk for obesity-related health problems and stigma during childhood and later in life (1,2). Also, because of poor food choices, many children are undernourished (3-5). The failure of children and adolescents to consume recommended servings from the major foods groups, particularly low-fat and fat-free dairy foods, fruits, vegetables, and whole grains (i.e., “Food Groups to Encourage”), contributes to nutrient shortages such as calcium, potassium, fiber, magnesium, and vitamin E (6). Vitamin D is also limited in many children’s diets (7). Participating in federally sponsored child nutrition programs provides an opportunity for children and adolescents to increase their intake of dairy foods and dairy food nutrients (8-10). As indicated in the 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans (6) and USDA’s MyPyramid for Kids (11), the long-term health of children and adolescents can best be achieved by moderate consumption of a variety of nutrient-rich foods among and within the major food groups, including low-fat and fat-free dairy foods.
This Digest reviews the positive impact of consuming recommended servings of dairy foods on children’s nutrient intake and health and the importance of federally sponsored child nutrition programs in helping children meet their nutrient needs and recommended daily servings of dairy foods.
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