The aim of the present study was to examine parents' reported and desired frequencies (practices vs. attitudes) of their 6-year-old children's meals, nutritional intake and lifestyle components, as well as possible obstacles and desired support with respect to higher or lower educational backgrounds.
Cross-sectional questionnaire study.
Five elementary schools in Uppsala, Sweden.
Parents of 176 6-year-old pupils attending the first grade. The total response rate was 89.7%.
Parents with a college degree reported that their 6-year-olds had a higher frequency of milk, fruit and vegetable intake, more physical activity and fewer hours watching television compared with parents with a secondary school degree. Congruent to these differences in reported practices, more parents with a college degree desired a higher frequency of milk, fruit and vegetable intake, more physical exercise and less television viewing for their children. Regarding parents' desired meal frequencies during the week, no differences between the groups with higher and lower levels of education were found. Despite similar attitudes, however, parents with a college degree reported that their children ate mostly all meals significantly more often during the week. Both parent groups stated lack of time as the most common obstacle in providing their children with desired lifestyle practices, although parents with a secondary school education added lack of money as a contributing factor.
As attitudes are not always reflected in reported practices, it seems a fruitful approach to assess both, as well as obstacles perceived by parents, before planning interventions to enhance healthy lifestyle habits in children.