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What Kids Say About: What They Eat

We wanted to know what kids were eating, so we asked 959 boys and girls to tell us. Their answers show that many of them are trying hard to eat healthy. How? By eating fruits, vegetables, and good-for-you drinks, like milk, water, and 100% fruit juice.

Some kids are still having trouble, though. Let's take a closer look at the results from our KidsPoll.

We asked kids to remember what they ate yesterday and answer this question: How many times did you have a vegetable? Here's what they said:

  • 26% of kids said they had veggies three times or more.
  • 16% said they had vegetables twice.
  • 25% said they had one serving of a vegetable.
  • 33% said they had none.

None is no good. One is better than none. Two is on the right track and three is great news. With three vegetables and two fruits, you could reach the five-a-day goal.

How to Eat More Good Stuff

Though they have a bad reputation among some kids, vegetables can be delicious. The trick to eating more of them is to try different types prepared in different ways. Don't like green beans? Have you had them drizzled with lemon butter or topped with crunchy almonds? Would you like to dip one in ketchup? Go ahead and try it.

We asked the same question about fruit and fruit juice and here's what kids said:

  • 39% said they had three or more servings of fruit or 100% fruit juice during the previous day.
  • 17% said they had two servings.
  • 24% said they had one serving of fruit or juice.
  • 20% said they had none.

As you can see, kids found it easier to fit in some fruit, but many still aren't having enough. If you'd like to boost fruit in your diet, try to find a new one to like. Cruise the grocery store or go to a farmer's market with your mom or dad. What looks good to you? Just ask your mom or dad to buy one. If you like it, you can buy more next time. For fruit that's easier to eat, check out prepackaged fruits at the store. That's an easy way to buy a single serving of a fruit — and it's sealed tight so you can toss it in your backpack or lunchbox.

So overall, 12% of kids said they ate no fruits or vegetables the previous day. Here's what the rest of the kids said, when we combined the fruit and vegetable answers:

  • 17% said they had one fruit or one veggie.
  • 13% had two total — one fruit and one veggie.
  • 13% had a combination of two fruits and vegetables.
  • 7% had a combination of three fruits and vegetables.
  • 38% had a combination of five or more.

Why are grown-ups always pushing the fruits and veggies? Because they contain vitamins, minerals, and fiber — all of which keep you healthy and growing just the way you should. Did you eat any fruits and vegetables today? If so, how many?

Breakfast and Beverages

Breakfast is good for everyone. After a long night of snoozing, your body needs some fuel to start the day. In our survey, 81% of kids said they had breakfast, but 19% said they usually don't eat it at all. Kids who eat breakfast said:

  • 65% eat it at home.
  • 9% eat it at school.
  • 7% eat it elsewhere.

Kids aren't just deciding what to eat, they're choosing drinks, too. Drinks count, just like food, so it's important to choose the best ones. Water and milk are the best drinks for kids and lots of kids choose them. If they could choose a drink, 21% said they'd pick water and 14% would pick milk. Another 14% said 100% juice, which is good as long as it's a small amount. Even school-age kids don't need more than 6-8 ounces (180-240 milliliters) of fruit juice per day — that's about 1 cup (240 milliliters).

Other kids chose sports drinks, soda, pop, or a fruit-flavored drink. These can be once-in-a-while drinks, but they're not good for every day. Why? They have a lot of sugar, which means a lot of calories. Remember, water has 0 calories! These sweet drinks also may lack the vitamins and minerals found in milk and 100% juice.

The Secret to Eating Healthy?

How often do you try to eat healthy? Kids in our survey gave a mix of answers.

  • 26% said all the time.
  • 35% said most of the time.
  • 24% said sometimes.
  • 10% said once in a while.
  • 5% said never.

We wonder why some kids are interested in eating healthy and other kids aren't. Comparing a few survey questions gave us a clue. It turns out that kids ate more fruits and vegetables if their families talked to them about healthy eating. That makes sense. Parents usually buy and serve the food, so if they're interested in nutrition, they'll probably make it easier for their kids to eat fruits and vegetables — and to be healthier in general.

Although 15% of kids said no family member ever mentioned nutrition, the rest said someone in their family talked with them about healthy eating once in a while, once a month, or once a week. Family members also were kids' No. 1 source of information about eating healthy.

  • 36% said family members gave them info on healthy eating.
  • 28% said they got their info from school.
  • 19% turned to a nurse or doctor.
  • 7% said the TV or Internet.
  • 10% said "somewhere else."

Kids Choose Their Own Food

But when it came time to fill that plate, more than half of kids (58%) said they chose which foods to eat. Other kids said their moms (31%), their dads (6%), or someone else (5%).

The truth is that this works best when kids and parents share the responsibility. Here's how it works best: Moms and dads buy and prepare all kinds of healthy foods and kids decide which foods to eat and how much to eat. That way, you can stop eating when you're full and you won't feel forced to eat food you don't like.

So keep on choosing healthy foods and consider going on a taste adventure. What's a taste adventure? When you try a new food!

What's a KidsPoll?

The group that took this KidsPoll included an equal number of boys and girls between 9 and 13 years old. They answered the questions on handheld data devices while visiting these health education centers and children's museums:

  • Byrnes Health Education Center — York, Pennsylvania
  • Children's Health Education Center — Milwaukee, Wisconsin
  • Crown Center for Health Education — Hinsdale, Illinois
  • Health World Children's Museum — Barrington, Illinois
  • HealthWorks! Kids Museum — South Bend, Indiana
  • Lilly Health Education Center — Indianapolis, Indiana
  • Saint Joseph Mercy Health Exploration Station — Canton, Michigan
  • Weller Health Education Center — Easton, Pennsylvania

A poll, like the KidsPoll, asks people a list of questions. Then researchers compile all the answers and look at the way the group answered. They calculate how many — or what percentage — answered "yes" to this question and "no" to that one. Polls give us clues about how most people — not just the ones who answered the poll questions — feel about certain issues. We'll be conducting more KidsPolls in the future to find out what kids say — maybe you'll be part of one!