British Journal of Nutrition

Full Papers

Energy and nutrient intakes by pre-school children in Flanders-Belgium

Inge Huybrechtsa1 c1 and Stefaan De Henauwa1a2

a1 Department of Public Health, Ghent University, Ghent, Belgium

a2 Department of Health Sciences, Vesalius, Hogeschool Gent, Belgium


The objective of this cross-sectional study was to investigate energy and nutrient intakes in pre-school children in Flanders-Belgium, using multistage clustered sampling. Diets of 661 children (338 boys; 323 girls) between 2·5 and 6·5 years old were assessed, with parentally reported 3 d estimated diet records. Usual energy and nutrient intakes were compared with national and international recommendations. Statistical modelling was used to account for within-individual variation. Mean daily energy intakes (boys, 6543 kJ; girls, 5757 kJ) approached the estimated energy requirements (EER) (boys, 6040 kJ; girls, 5798 kJ) for children < 4 years old. For children at least 4 years old, mean energy intakes (boys, 6408 kJ; girls, 5914 kJ) were below the EER of 6995 and 6740 kJ/d, respectively. Mean energy percentage (en%) derived from saturated fatty acids (SFA) (13–14 en%) was above the acceptable macronutrient distribution range (AMDR) upper level of 12 en%. Mean percentages derived from MUFA (10–11 en%) and PUFA (4–5 en%) were below the AMDR lower levels of 12 and 8 en%, respectively. For fibre, iron and vitamin D intakes, < 15 % of the children reached the recommended dietary allowances. Everybody exceeded the tolerable upper intake levels for sodium. Although diets in Belgian children were adequate in most nutrients, the implications of low iron, vitamin D and fibre intakes should be investigated. Furthermore, this affluent diet, characterised by SFA, MUFA and PUFA intakes differing from the recommendations and excessive sodium intakes, might increase the risk for CVD in later life.

(Received October 30 2006)

(Revised February 28 2007)

(Accepted March 12 2007)


c1 Corresponding author: Inge Huybrechts, International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) – World Health Organization, Nutrition and Hormones Group, 150, cours Albert Thomas, 69372 Lyon Cedex 08, France, fax +33 (0) 472 73 83 61, email


Abbreviations: AI, adequate intake; AMDR, acceptable macronutrient distribution range; AR, acceptable range; DRI, dietary reference intakes; EAR, estimated average requirement; EDR, estimated diet record; EER, estimated energy requirements; EI, energy intake; FCDB, food composition database; IOM, Institute of Medicine; LTI, lowest threshold intake; OEI, observed energy intake; PRI, population reference intake; SFA, saturated fatty acids; UL, tolerable upper intake level