Royal Prince Alfred Hospital Royal Prince Alfred Hospital
Allergy Unit

Student research


Children’s Health, Dietary Preferences, Snack Food Intake, Salt Intake and Obesity

by
Ada Lei Im Chok
Master of Nutrition and Dietetics, The University of Sydney
Supervisors: Anne Swain, Velencia Soutter, Robert Loblay
October 2005

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Abstract

Background

Children’s food preferences determine their dietary intake and their eating behaviours established during childhood track into adulthood. Therefore, it is important to monitor their dietary patterns in order to explore and prevent the onset of adult health problems.

Objectives

To examine children’s food preferences, eating behaviours and dietary intakes, and to investigate their noncore food intakes and its impact on body weight.

Design, methods and subjects

Sixty-three children aged 3-10 years participated in this study. Carers of the children completed questionnaires concerning the children’s eating behaviour and dietary intake by Food Frequency Questionnaire and 4-day food records. Data were analyzed by SPSS to calculate descriptive statistics. Independent T-test was used for testing differences between means, and a significance level of P<0.05 was adopted.

Results

Twelve participants (21%) were classified as fussy eaters. No significant difference in dietary intake between fussy and non-fussy eaters was found. The most liked and disliked food groups were noncore foods and vegetables respectively. Participant’s average intake of all food groups and nutrients exceeded the recommended levels except the cereals intake (in Recommendation Example A) and vegetables intake (in Recommendation Example B) of the 3-7 year-old group. Noncore foods contributed an average of 37% of total energy intake, and no significant difference between healthy and overweight participants was found.

Conclusions

Food preferences and fussy eating existed among the children. They were nutritionally adequate with excessive consumption of noncore foods. Education for parents on children’s food preference development and balanced diet is required.