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Changing the behaviour of children living in Dutch disadvantaged neighbourhoods to improve breakfast quality: Comparing the efficacy of three school-based strategies

Zeinstra, Gertrude G., Vingerhoeds, Monique H., Vrijhof, Milou, van Mourik, Sanne, Houtzager, Romy N., van Kleef, Ellen
Appetite 2019 v.137 pp. 163-173
analysis of variance, breakfast, children, curriculum, education programs, low-income neighborhoods, models, portion size, self-efficacy
Children's breakfast habits are suboptimal. A novel school-based education programme was developed and tested with the aim of improving children's attitude, knowledge and breakfast quality. A pre- and post-test design was used with four conditions: group-based education, role modelling, tailored feedback with goal setting, and a combination of these three delivery modes. Two hundred eighty children from disadvantaged communities (9.3 ± 0.8 years) participated in three lessons at school over a two-month period. Children's attitude, knowledge and breakfast behaviour were evaluated by a pre- and post-questionnaire completed by the children. A follow-up measure was executed at 24 weeks. The data were analysed by repeated measures ANOVA. At baseline, 90% of the children ate breakfast on the measurement day; 60–76% of the children ate breakfast daily. Between pre- and post-test, a significant time effect was found for children's attitude, self-efficacy, knowledge and behaviour (all p < 0.05). Children in the feedback condition improved most favourably: correct classification of breakfast products increased by 10 products (out of 44) and breakfast quality score improved by 25 points (on a 100-point scale). The feedback condition also resulted in positive changes in the home setting. The follow-up test showed a decline in children's knowledge and their breakfast quality across conditions. To conclude, this study showed that a three-lesson school programme based on individual feedback and goal setting is most effective for changing knowledge on breakfasting and self-reported breakfast quality among children aged 8–10 years living in disadvantaged neighbourhoods. To maintain effectiveness, longer-term programmes embedded in the school curriculum are needed to enhance breakfast quality. Future research should explore the optimal duration and intensity of such programmes and should incorporate the topic of suitable portion sizes.