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Early Childhood Vegetable, Fruit, and Discretionary Food Intakes Do Not Meet Dietary Guidelines, but Do Show Socioeconomic Differences and Tracking over Time

Spence, Alison C., Campbell, Karen J., Lioret, Sandrine, McNaughton, Sarah A.
Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics 2018 v.118 no.9 pp. 1634-1643.e1
Adequate Intakes, Australians, Dietary Guidelines, childhood, children, complementary foods, diet study techniques, food groups, food intake, fruits, guidelines, lifestyle, parents, socioeconomic status, vegetables, Australia
Dietary intakes of young children are likely to be important determinants of their short- and long-term health, yet there are few longitudinal dietary studies of this age group, and no previous assessments of diets before age 2 years compared with national dietary guidelines.This study aimed to compare vegetable, fruit, and discretionary food intakes of children aged 9 months to 5 years to dietary guidelines, and to assess differences in intakes by socioeconomic status and tracking of intakes across early childhood.This study analyzed longitudinal data from the Melbourne Infant Feeding Activity and Nutrition Trial Program early childhood lifestyle intervention trial, and is the first study to compare diets of children younger than age 2 years to national dietary guidelines.Participants were 467 children in Melbourne, Australia, aged 4 months at baseline (study conducted 2008-2015).Multiple 24-hour recalls with parents were conducted at child ages 9 months, 1.5 years, 3.5 years, and 5 years.Intakes of vegetables, fruits, and discretionary foods were compared with Australian Dietary Guidelines. Differences by socioeconomic status and tracking of intakes of each food group were assessed by multivariable linear regression.Few children (<10%) met guidelines for discretionary food intakes at any age. Most children (≥90%) met vegetable and fruit guidelines at 9 months, but thereafter rates of adequate intakes reduced substantially. Children of higher socioeconomic status consumed diets closer to guidelines for most food groups at most ages. Tracking of intakes was apparent across ages, with the strongest and most consistent tracking for discretionary foods.This study shows that diets of Australian children participating in this lifestyle intervention trial were suboptimal from early life. The evidence of differences by socioeconomic status and tracking from age 9 months, particularly for discretionary foods, highlights the importance of research and action to support appropriate introduction of complementary foods during the first year of life, and of focusing these efforts on disadvantaged groups.