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To evaluate the use of an administered eighty-item FFQ to assess nutrient intake and diet quality in 3-year-old children.
Frequency of consumption and portion size of the foods listed on the FFQ during the 3 months preceding the interview were reported by the child's main caregiver; after the interview a 2 d prospective food diary (FD) was completed on behalf of the child. Nutrient intakes from the FFQ and FD were estimated using UK food composition data. Diet quality was assessed from the FFQ and FD according to the child's scores for a principal component analysis-defined dietary pattern (‘prudent’ pattern), characterised by high consumption of fruit, vegetables, water and wholemeal cereals.
Children (n 892) aged 3 years in the Southampton Women's Survey.
Intakes of all nutrients assessed by the FFQ were higher than FD estimates, but there was reasonable agreement in terms of ranking of children (range of Spearman rank correlations for energy-adjusted nutrient intakes, rs = 0·41 to 0·59). Prudent diet scores estimated from the FFQ and FD were highly correlated (r = 0·72). Some family and child characteristics appeared to influence the ability of the FFQ to rank children, most notably the number of child's meals eaten away from home.
The FFQ provides useful information to allow ranking of children at this age with respect to nutrient intake and quality of diet, but may overestimate absolute intakes. Dietary studies of young children need to consider family and child characteristics that may impact on reporting error associated with an FFQ.
It is recognised that eating habits established in early childhood may track into adult life. Developing effective interventions to promote healthier patterns of eating throughout the life course requires a greater understanding of the diets of young children and the factors that influence early dietary patterns. In a longitudinal UK cohort study, we assessed the diets of 1640 children at age 3 years using an interviewer-administered FFQ and examined the influence of maternal and family factors on the quality of the children's diets. To describe dietary quality, we used a principal components analysis-defined pattern of foods that is consistent with healthy eating recommendations. This was termed a ‘prudent’ diet pattern and was characterised by high intakes of fruit, vegetables and wholemeal bread, but by low intakes of white bread, confectionery, chips and roast potatoes. The key influence on the quality of the children's diets was the quality of their mother's diets; alone it accounted for almost a third of the variance in child's dietary quality. Mothers who had better-quality diets, which complied with dietary recommendations, were more likely to have children with comparable diets. This relationship remained strong even after adjustment for all other factors considered, including maternal educational attainment, BMI and smoking, and the child's birth order and the time spent watching television. Our data provide strong evidence of shared family patterns of diet and suggest that interventions to improve the quality of young women's diets could be effective in improving the quality of their children's diets.
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