Objectives. To determine the proportion of youth meeting national recommendations for food group intake and to identify food intake patterns.
Design. The US Department of Agriculture's 1989–1991 Continuing Surveys of Food Intakes by Individuals were used to estimate food intake. Intake was determined from 3 days of diet by disaggregating foods into their component ingredients and using weights that correspond to servings.
Participants. The sample included 3307 youth, 2 to 19 years of age, living in the 48 conterminous United States.
Main Outcome Measures. Mean number of servings and percentage of individuals meeting national recommendations for food group intake according to demographic characteristics, patterns of intake, and nutrient profiles associated with each pattern.
Results. Mean numbers of servings per day were below minimum recommendations for all food groups except the dairy group (ages 2 to 11). Percentages of youth meeting recommendations ranged from ∼30% for fruit, grain, meat, and dairy to 36% for vegetables. Sixteen percent of youth did not meet any recommendations, and 1% met all recommendations. The pattern of meeting all recommendations resulted in nutrient intakes above the recommended dietary allowances and was high in fat. Conversely, meeting none of the recommendations resulted in intakes well below the recommended dietary allowances for some nutrients. Total fat and added sugars averaged 35% and 15% of energy, respectively, and levels were similar among most demographic groups.
Conclusion. Children and teens in the United States follow eating patterns that do not meet national recommendations. Nutrition education and intervention are needed among US children.