N° 40 | December 2009

Children’s and parent’s perceptions of the determinants of children’s fruit and vegetable intake in a low-intake population

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The evidence for the health benefits of fruit and vegetables (F&V) intake explain the recommended intake of at least 400g of F&V per day1 which is far from being consumed by the majority. The Pro Children cross-Europe survey, involving nine European countries, aimed to assess F&V intake of children and their determinants2-3. Results showed that F&V intake was lowest in Iceland4 and the major determinants were: availability at home, family rules, knowledge of recommendations, preferences and liking5.

As parents are a key component of the environment of Young children, the main objective of the present study was to focus on differences between children and parents’ reports on physical and social environmental determinants of F&V intake among 11-yearold children6.

A cross-sectional survey

A cross-sectional survey was performed as part of the Pro Children cross-Europe survey in Iceland. Children’s F&V intakes were reported by children and parents. The sample included 963 childparent couples.

F&V intake and their determinants were assessed with selfadministered questionnaires developed for children and parents7-8. Determinants included: availability at home (different kinds of F&V), availability of specific F&V, accessibility at home, modeling (parents, eat together), active encouragement, family rules, selfrated intake, habit and knowledge of recommendations.

Children’s and parent’s perceptions

Correlations between children and parents F&V intake were low (r=0.21 p<0.01 for fruits and r=0.17 p<0.02 for vegetables). Availability and accessibility of fruits at home are reported lower by children than parents. Children reported more modeling, active encouragement and demand than their parents and considered eating fruit more a habit than their parents.

Availability of specific vegetables at home is more reported by children than parents. Children reported more active encouragement and demand than their parents and reported the recommendation more accurately. Parents reported children eat more vegetables they like.

Determinants of F&V intakes

Variance in children’s fruit intake is better explained by self-report of determinants than parents’ reports. According to children, the main determinants of fruit intake are availability at home, family rules and knowledge of recommendations. The father is the strongest model for fruit intake.

Variance in children’s vegetable intake is better explained by selfreport of determinants than parents’ reports. According to children, the main determinants of vegetable intake are availability at home, demanding family rule and knowledge of recommendations. Eating with family is the strongest model for vegetable intake.

Active encouragement was negatively associated to fruit, as well as vegetables intake.

The need to target parents

Authors found differences between children’s and parents’ reports on the determinants of F&V intake. Observed variance in F&V intake is better explained by children’s perception than their parents’ perception. Even if parents are likely the most important models for their children, low correlation between parents and children F&V intake were observed in this study.
According to children, the main determinants of F&V intake were availability at home, modeling, family rules and knowledge of recommendations. All factors which are mainly determined by the parents.

Interventions aiming to increase children F&V consumption must target the parents.

  1. World Health Organization (2003) Diet, nutrition and the prevention of chronic diseases. Report of a joint WHO/FAO expert consultation. Geneva. WHO.
  2. Klepp KI et al. (2005) Ann Nutr Metab 49,212-220.
  3. Rasmussen M et al. (2006) Int J Behav Nutr Phys Act 3, 22.
  4. Yngve A et al. (2005) Ann Nutr Metab 49, 236-245.
  5. Kristjansdottir AG et al. (2006) Int J Behav Nutr Phys Act 3, 41.
  6. Kristjansdottir AG et al. (2009) Public Health Nutr 12:8, 1224-1233.
  7. Haraldsdóttir J et al. (2005) Ann Nutr Metab 49(4):221-7.
  8. Kristjansdottir AG et al. (2006) Eur J Clin Nut 60:408–415.
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