Public Health Nutrition

Research Paper

Associations among the food environment, diet quality and weight status in Cree children in Québec

Shauna M Downsa1, Amber Arnolda1, Dru Marshalla2, Linda J McCargara1, Kim D Rainea3 and Noreen D Willowsa1 c1

a1 Department of Agricultural, Food and Nutritional Science, 4–10 Agriculture/Forestry Centre, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, T6G 2P5

a2 Faculty of Physical Education and Recreation, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada

a3 Centre for Health Promotion Studies, School of Public Health, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada


Objective To explore the relationship among children’s diet quality, weight status and food environment in subarctic Canada.

Design In the cross-sectional study, children’s BMI was calculated, diet quality was assessed using three 24 h dietary recalls and children were asked about their home food environment and source of meals.

Setting Two Aboriginal Cree communities in northern Québec.

Subjects Two hundred and one children in grades 4–6.

Results The majority (64·2 %) of children were overweight (29·9 %) or obese (34·3 %). Weight status was not associated with reported restaurant meal frequency or the home food environment. The 18 % of children who consumed three or more restaurant meals in the three days of recall consumed, on average, 2004 kJ (479 kcal) more energy daily than children consuming no restaurant meals and had higher intakes of fat, saturated fat, Ca and soda. Most foods contributing to energy and dietary fat were energy-dense market foods of low nutritional value such as sweetened beverages and snack foods. Only 68 % of children reported often having fruits and vegetables in the home and 98·5 % of children consumed less than 5 fruits and vegetables daily. Many children (42·8 %) were at risk of Zn inadequacy. Only 19 % of children consumed 2 or more servings of milk daily, and the mean intakes of Ca and vitamin D were below the recommended adequate intake. Traditional game meat was consumed infrequently, but contributed significantly to Fe and Zn intake.

Conclusions Childhood obesity in subarctic communities prevailed in a food environment typified by high-energy-density commercial foods of low nutritional value.

(Received December 09 2007)

(Accepted November 18 2008)


c1 Corresponding author: Email