This study determined and compared the mean daily intake of energy and nutrients from processed foods by level of processing (minimally processed; processed for preservation, nutrient enhancement, and freshness; mixtures of combined ingredients; ready-to-eat processed foods; and prepared foods/meals) among non-Hispanic white, non-Hispanic black, and Mexican American US children. Data from participants 2–18 years old (n
= 10,298) of the nationally representative cross-sectional National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 2003–2008 with a complete one day, 24-h dietary recall were used to determine mean intake of energy and nutrients recommended for increase and decrease, as per the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, among child race/ethnic groups by category of food processing. Regression analysis was used to estimate and compare covariate-adjusted (gender, age, and poverty-income-level) least square means (p
< 0.05/3 race/ethnic groups). All children, regardless of race or ethnicity consumed processed foods. Approximately 66% to 84% of total daily energy, saturated fat, cholesterol, fiber, total sugar, added sugars, calcium, vitamin D, potassium, and sodium intake are contributed by one of the five categories of processed foods. Clinicians and policy should primarily advise consideration of the energy and nutrient composition of foods, rather than the processing level, when selecting a healthy diet for children.
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