Low-income, racially and ethnically diverse children are at a higher risk of obesity than their peers; yet, few research studies have examined the quality of their diets. The Healthy Eating Index (HEI)-2010 was used to assess the food quality of a racially and culturally diverse group of 2-year-olds. Researchers calculated compliance with the Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA) using a total HEI score (range 0–100) and 12 component scores based on 24-hour dietary recall data from caregivers of toddlers (24–34 months) at four pediatric resident clinics that participated in the Greenlight Study. The majority of the participants were Hispanic or non-Hispanic black people from low-income homes. The average HEI-2010 score was 62.8. Hispanics had the highest HEI score, however this was not statistically significant. Toddlers of non-obese caregivers, older than 35 years, and born outside the United States had better HEI ratings. Most received high HEI component scores for dairy, fruit, and protein items, but just a few obtained maximum scores, especially for whole grains, vegetables, and fatty acid ratio.
Despite DGA guidelines for fruit, dairy, and protein sources, toddlers in this varied sample had poor diet quality as evaluated by the HEI, owing primarily to low component scores for whole grains, vegetables, and the ratio of unsaturated to saturated fatty acids.