|dc.description.abstract||Background: Fruit and vegetables are recommended as key components of a healthy diet because they provide essential vitamins and minerals, dietary fibre, and antioxidants. Previous studies have shown that fruit and vegetable intake decreases the risk of diet-related chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease, and helps in weight management. Although fruit and vegetable consumption is important during the whole life course, it is particularly important in early childhood, since optimal nutrition is important at this crucial period for the normal growth and development of a child, and furthermore, eating habits and food preferences that are established in childhood continue into adult life. However, the fruit and vegetable intake of preschool children in New Zealand has not been extensively studied so little information is available. To date, no studies in New Zealand have used diet records (the “gold standard” dietary assessment method) to assess fruit and vegetable intake in preschool children.
Objective: The aim of this project was to determine the fruit and vegetable intake of a sample of preschool children aged 3 years, living in Dunedin using a weighed diet record, and to compare their fruit and vegetable intake with the New Zealand Food and Nutrition Guidelines for Healthy Children and Young People (Aged 2 to 18 Years).
Design: Three-day weighed diet records were collected by parents and caregivers from 17 preschool children aged 3 years from Dunedin, New Zealand, between July and September 2014. Diet records were entered into a web-based dietary software program, Kai-culator”, to determine the fruit and vegetable intake of the preschool children. The weight of fruit and vegetables consumed by the children was converted into number of servings using the serving sizes described in the New Zealand Food and Nutrition Guidelines for children and young people aged 2 to 18 years, and their fruit and vegetable intake was compared to these guidelines. The study also determined the most commonly eaten fruit and vegetables by comparing the weight of each fruit and vegetable consumed by the children. The strength of relationship between fruit and vegetable intake and fibre and vitamin C intake was assessed using the Pearson’s correlation coefficient.
Results: Daily average intakes of fruit and vegetables were 132.2g (SD 72.4) and 39.0g (SD 26.7) respectively. Only one child (6%) met the daily recommended intake for fruit, and no children met the daily recommended intake for vegetables. Potato and banana were the highest contributors to the total amount of vegetables consumed (21.6%) and to the total amount of fruit consumed (24.4%) respectively among the children. Total fruit and vegetable intake was strongly correlated with dietary fibre (r=0.634, p<0.006) and vitamin C (r=0.818, p<0.001) intake.
Conclusion: The present study found that the level of fruit and vegetable intake among preschool children in this sample was low. This suggests that greater efforts targeting improvements in fruit and vegetable consumption among New Zealand pre-schoolers are needed, both in quantity and variety, in order to achieve healthy eating in pre-schoolers, and to prevent diet-related diseases in our future adult population. Although the present study suggests that the fruit and vegetable guidelines are not achievable for 3 year olds, further study in a larger and more nationally representative sample is needed before we can be sure that the recommendations of fruit and vegetable intake for preschool children need to be revised.||