Associations between parental feeding practices, problem food behaviours and dietary intake in New Zealand overweight children aged 4-8 years

Jillian J Haszard, Paula M L Skidmore, Sheila M Williams, Rachael W Taylor
Public Health Nutrition 2015, 18 (6): 1036-43

OBJECTIVE: Parents report that children's eating behaviours are a major barrier to providing them with a healthy diet. Links between problem eating behaviours and parental feeding practices are not well established and have not previously been examined in overweight children. The aim of the present study was to assess associations between problem food behaviours, dietary intake and parental feeding practices of overweight children aged 4-8 years.

DESIGN: Participants were recruited for a lifestyle intervention (n 203). At baseline, children's BMI was measured and parents completed comprehensive questionnaires about the feeding practices they used, the problem food behaviours their children exhibited and the foods their child consumed. A fussy eating scale was developed and associations were determined using correlations and regression analysis, including interactions.

SETTING: Dunedin, New Zealand.

SUBJECTS: Overweight children aged 4-8 years.

RESULTS: Healthy eating guidance and monitoring by parents were related to the consumption of fewer unhealthy foods (B=-0·4, P=0·001 and B=-0·4, P<0·001). Conversely, a lack of parental control (child control) was related to a higher intake of unhealthy foods (B = 0·5, P<0·001). Parents of children who were fussy eaters monitored their child's food intake less (P<0·001) and allowed the child more freedom over what he/she ate (P<0·001). These children consumed fewer fruit and vegetables than those who were not fussy eaters (P<0·001). However, fussy eaters with food-restrictive parents ate more fruit and vegetables (B=2·9, P<0·001).

CONCLUSIONS: These results suggest that a more structured food environment might be beneficial for the diet and food behaviours of young overweight children.

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