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Good nutrition is essential for keeping current and future generations of Americans healthy across the lifespan. Breastfeeding helps protect against childhood illnesses, including ear and respiratory infections, asthma, and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). People who eat a healthy diet live longer and are at lower risk for serious health problems such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and obesity. For people with chronic diseases, healthy eating can help manage these conditions and prevent complications.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends exclusive breastfeeding for 6 months, and then continuing breastfeeding while introducing complementary foods until a child is 12 months old or older. This provides infants with ideal nutrition and supports growth and development.

The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend:
  • Adults consume 1.5-2 cups of fruits and 2-3 cups of vegetables per day.
  • Americans should limit their intake of added sugars to less than 10% of their total daily calories. For example, in a 2,000 calorie diet, no more than 200 calories should come from added sugars.

Breastfeeding is good for both mothers and babies. Breast milk is the best source of nutrition for most babies. Breastmilk changes to meet the nutritional needs of a baby as it grows. Breastfeeding can also help protect mother and baby against some short- and long-term illnesses and diseases including: asthma, type 2 diabetes, eczema, gastrointestinal infections, ear and respiratory infections, inflammatory bowel disease, obesity and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). Low rates of breastfeeding add more than $3 billion a year to medical costs for women and children in the United States.

Poor diet quality is a leading risk factor associated with death and disability in the United States. Eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables as part of an overall healthy diet can help protect against a number of serious and costly chronic diseases, including heart disease, type 2 diabetes, some cancers, and obesity. Fruits and vegetables also provide important vitamins and minerals that help the human body work as it should and fight off illness and disease.

Americans are eating and drinking too much added sugars which can lead to health problems such as weight gain and obesity, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease. Added sugars are sugars and syrups that are added to foods or beverages when they are processed or prepared. Naturally occurring sugars such as those in fruit or unflavored milk are not added sugars. To live healthier, longer lives, most need to move more and eat better including getting fewer calories from added sugars.

The leading sources of added sugars in the U.S. diet are sugar-sweetened beverages like soda and fruit drinks, grain-based desserts like cakes and cookies, candy, and dairy desserts like ice cream. Reducing the amount of sugary drinks and sugary foods each day and replacing these with plain water and fruit might be a good way to reduce added sugar intake.

Data from the National Immunization Survey reveal that although most infants receive some breastmilk, most are not exclusively breastfed or continuing to breastfeed as long as recommended. Nationally 83% of babies are ever breastfed, 58% are still breastfeeding at six months of age and only 36% are still breastfeeding at one year. In terms of exclusive breastfeeding, 47% of babies breastfeed exclusively through three months and only 25% breastfeed exclusively through six months. Rates of breastfeeding are higher in Hawai'i than in the U.S. with 96% of women initiating breastfeeding, and 50% breastfeeding exclusively for at least 8 weeks (PRAMS).

Fewer than 1 in 10 children and adults eat the recommended amount of vegetables and only 4 in 10 children and fewer than 1 in 7 adults eat enough fruit. In Hawai'i 21.0% of adults eat vegetables less than one time per day and 37% eat fruit less than one time per day. Among high school students, 44% eat vegetables less than once per day and 51% eat fruit less than one time per day.

Nationally, in 2011-2014, 63% of youth and 49% of adults drank a sugar-sweetened beverage (SSB) on a given day. On average, youth and adults in the United States consumed about 144 calories from SSB each day.

About 60% of mothers do not breastfeed as long as they intend to. How long a mother breastfeeds her baby is influenced by many factors including:
  • Issues with lactation and latching
  • Concerns about infant nutrition and weight
  • Mother's concern about taking medications while breastfeeding
  • Unsupportive work policies and lack of parental leave
  • Cultural norms and/or lack of family support
  • Unsupportive hospital practices and policies
  • Lack of community resources to support breastfeeding
  • Insufficient reimbursement for lactation support through health plans

Fruits and Vegetables-- Research shows that residents of low-income, minority, and rural neighborhoods have less access to stores that sell healthy foods, including a variety of fruits and vegetables at affordable prices.

While there is evidence that sugary soda consumption is decreasing, teen boys are more likely to report daily soda consumption than girls, and Other Pacific Islanders report more soda consumption than other race/ethnicity groups.

States and communities can help citizens consume more fruits and vegetables by making them convenient and affordable in the places where children and adults live, work, learn, and play. This is particularly important for individuals and families that face food insecurity or lack access to stores selling quality produce at reasonable prices.

Breastfeeding is tracked by the National Immunization Surveys (NIS), which can yield national and state-level estimates, and breastfeeding initiation is tracked through the Pregnancy Risk Assessment Monitoring System (PRAMS).

Fruit and vegetable consumption is tracked at the national and state levels primarily through two surveys:
National information is also tracked through the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), CDC/NCHS.

For more information on tracking nutrition health objectives, please visit the Nutrition and Weight Status topic at

Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS)

Pregnancy Risk Assessment Monitoring System (PRAMS)

Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS)