U.S. children are not consuming enough vegetables, resulting in an inadequate intake of key nutrients, including potassium and dietary fiber, which are important for growth, development and overall health. Research published (January 2016) in a special supplement of the peer-reviewed journal Advances in Nutrition demonstrated that children ages 1-3 years of age consumed just 67 percent of the dietary reference intakes (DRI) for potassium and 55 percent of the DRI for fiber.
An overarching conclusion from the various papers included in the supplement, “Science and Policy: Adopting a Fruitful Vegetable Encounter for Our Children,” is that potatoes are a vegetable that tend to be well-liked by young children and are a good source of potassium and provide 8 percent of the recommended daily value of fiber. In fact, a study of elementary school students demonstrated that students are not consuming the majority of vegetables offered to them in school lunches. However, plate waste for white potatoes was the lowest among any type of vegetables; thus, including potatoes in school meals is one important way to help ensure children receive those key nutrients of concern.
“It’s important that consumption of all vegetables, particularly those that are good sources of potassium and dietary fiber, be encouraged in children,” says Theresa A. Nicklas, DrPH, USDA/ARS Children’s Nutrition Research Center, Department of Pediatrics, Baylor College of Medicine, and one of the supplement’s authors. “Dietary habits established during childhood often transition to adulthood, so it is hugely important to encourage children to enjoy vegetables as part of the diet in order to reap the nutrition and health benefits provided by vegetables into adulthood.”
The journal supplement features seven papers authored by leading nutrition scientists that explore the state of the science pertaining to vegetable consumption in children. The supplement is the outcome of a November 2014 USDA/ARS Children’s Nutrition Research Center at Baylor College of Medicine roundtable on vegetable consumption in children. The forum was supported by the Alliance for Potato Research and Education, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to expanding and translating scientific research into evidence-based policy and education initiatives that recognize the role of all forms of the potato–a nutritious vegetable–in promoting health for all age groups.