Eating Habits of Nova Scotia Preschoolers Registered Full-Time in Regulated Child Care

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Gatien, Sarah
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Mount Saint Vincent University
The development of healthy eating habits established in early childhood is crucial for growth, development, and health outcomes, both short- and long-term. The connection of lower quality diets high in sugar, sodium, and fats to negative health outcomes of obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and some cancers is well-established. National survey results and recent studies indicate that Canadian children may not be meeting the current Eating Well with Canada’s Food Guide (CFG) recommendations. Further to this, data indicate that diets of most Canadian children are high in sugar and sodium. To support the development of healthy eating behaviours in early childhood, the Standards for Food and Nutrition in Regulated Child Care Settings were implemented in Nova Scotia in 2011. This thesis is embedded in the larger Nutrition Standards in Child Care Project (NSCCP), which explored the impact of these Standards on preschooler eating habits in the child care and home. This study examined preschooler diets to determine if Nova Scotia children registered full time in licensed child care centres meet CFG recommendations, and to compare home and child care environments. Four-day food records of 79 children ages 3 to 5 years old were examined for quantity and quality using The Classification of Foods in the Canadian Nutrient File According to Eating Well with Canada’s Food Guide (CNF/CFG). Results indicate that many preschoolers are not meeting CFG recommendations for quantity and quality for the four main food groups and their directional statements. Overall, 55.7%, 82.3%, 65.8%, and 74.7% of children met recommendations for vegetables and fruits, grains, milk and alternatives, and meat and alternatives, respectively. Findings also identified that substantially fewer 4 and 5 year old preschoolers met recommendations for the vegetables and fruits group (30.3%) compared to the 3 year old preschoolers (60.9%), and fewer 4 and 5 year olds met grain recommendations on days at home (48.4%) compared to days including child care (83.3%). Additionally, vegetable and fruit intakes, as well as grain intakes are mostly in line with CFG guidance for quality; however, milk and alternatives intakes and meat and alternatives intakes are lower in quality. Children also consumed higher mean intakes of sugar-sweetened beverages and “other” foods on days at home (p<0.001). This study shows that food and beverage standards in the regulated child care environment do impact preschooler diets compared to CFG recommendations; however, many children in Nova Scotia are not meeting CFG recommendations for quantity and quality.
Nova Scotia , Child care centres , Children , Nutrition