Public Health Nutrition

Research Article

Demographic, familial and trait predictors of fruit and vegetable consumption by pre-school children

L J Cookea1 c1, J Wardlea1, EL Gibsona1, M Sapochnika1, A Sheihama1 and M Lawsona2

a1 Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, University College London, Gower Street, London WC1E 6BT, UK

a2 Institute of Child Health, University College London, London, UK

Abstract

Objective: To examine the contribution to fruit and vegetable eating in children of potential predictive variables within the domains of demographics, parental feeding practices and personality traits.

Design: Cross-sectional survey.

Setting: Questionnaires were distributed to parents through 22 London nursery schools.

Subjects: Questionnaires were completed and returned by 564 parents or principal caregivers of 2–6-year-old children.

Results: Significant predictors of children's fruit and vegetable intake emerged from all three domains examined. Demographic variables associated with child's vegetable consumption were mother's education and child's age and gender. Only ethnicity was significantly associated with fruit consumption. Parental consumption, breast-feeding and early introduction to fruit and vegetables were related to intake of both. Family mealtimes were associated with higher intake of vegetables, but not of fruit. Two characteristics of children themselves (food neophobia and enjoyment of food) were strongly related to the consumption of fruit and vegetables. Subsequent multivariate analyses revealed that parental intake and child food neophobia independently predicted intake of both foods. In the presence of these, fruit consumption was affected by breast-feeding and early introduction to fruit, whereas vegetable consumption was related only to child's gender and enjoyment of food.

Conclusions: These findings may be used to inform future interventions aimed at increasing children's consumption of fruit and vegetables. Parents should be made aware of the possible impact of their own behaviour on the eating habits of their children.

(Received May 12 2003)

(Accepted June 31 2003)

Correspondence

c1 *Corresponding author: Email l.cooke@public-health.ucl.ac.uk

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