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Interrelationships of More Healthful and Less Healthful Aspects of Diet Quality in a Low-Income Community Sample of Preschool-Aged Children

Abstract

Objective

To investigate whether higher intake of “healthy” foods was associated with lower intake of “unhealthy” foods among a sample of low-income preschool-aged children, and if associations differed for younger (2–3 years) and older (4–5 years) children.

Methods

Between May 2012 and May 2013, we studied 298 parents/guardians of 357 preschool-aged children living in a low-income area of a large Midwestern city in the United States. Parents reported on children’s past week frequency of intake of juice, fruits, vegetables, milk, sugar-sweetened beverages, fast food, sweets, and salty snacks with seven response options (coded 0–6) ranging from none to ≥4 times/day. We combined fruits, vegetables, and milk to create a healthy diet score, and denoted a healthy diet behavior if frequency of intake of these foods was ≥2 times/day. Sugar-sweetened beverages, fast food, sweets, and salty snacks were considered unhealthy aspects of children’s diets. Juice was examined separately.

Results

The number of healthy diet behaviors was not related to the number of unhealthy diet behaviors or the unhealthy diet score. This was true overall and by age group (P trend values ranged from 0.26 to 0.90), and the pattern did not differ by age (P interaction >0.3). Correlations between healthy and unhealthy diet scores overall and for younger and older preschool-aged children were not statistically significant (Spearman correlation coefficients = 0.05, −0.01 and 0.11 respectively).

Conclusions

Healthy and unhealthy aspects of children’s diets may be independent of one another. Additional research in heterogeneous populations is needed.

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Acknowledgements

We thank Sherry Liu and Kendall Leser for their role in data collection, as well as the citizens of Columbus, Ohio, who participated in this research. This research was supported by Cooperative Agreement Number U48DP001912 from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Prevention Research Centers Program. The findings and conclusions in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The funders had no role in the design, analysis, or writing of this article.

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Correspondence to Sarah E. Anderson.

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Anderson, S.E., Kaye, G., Andridge, R. et al. Interrelationships of More Healthful and Less Healthful Aspects of Diet Quality in a Low-Income Community Sample of Preschool-Aged Children. Matern Child Health J 19, 2663–2672 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10995-015-1788-9

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Keywords

  • Diet quality
  • Nutrition
  • Preschool-aged children
  • Community survey