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Home food environment and urban Hispanic children’s diet quality

The burden of obesity falls disproportionately on minority groups: the prevalence of obesity among non-Hispanic white adolescents in the United States was 16.1% by 2010, whereas that for Hispanics was greater than 23%1. The risk for obesity, diabetes, and all-cause mortality increase with poor diet quality2,3. The home food environment and familial eating habits play a key role in children’s diet given that they impart examples of eating habits and influence access to foods at home4.

As there is a paucity of data available regarding home food availability and familial eating habits in this minority group, this study focuses on Hispanic children. The study aimed to evaluate diet quality and investigate the influences of home food availability, parental diet, and familial eating habits on children’s overall diet quality.

A total of 187 children, aged between 10 to 14 years, and their parents participated in this crosssectional study. The Healthy Eating Index (HEI) was used to determine diet quality based on reported dietary intake obtained through a food frequency questionnaire administered to the children. Parents self-reported home food availability, familial eating habits, and their own habitual diet through a home environment survey.

Parents: more than 90% reported having fruits and/or vegetables at home and more than 80% consumed fruits and/or vegetables at least twice per week.

Most parents reported having fruits (97%), vegetables (91%), 100% fruit juice (86%), and milk (83%) available at home. Fiftysix percent of parents reported having soda in the home, and 54% reported having fruit drinks available in the home. Eightyfour percent reported having energy-dense snacks, such as potato chips, cookies, cake, and/or ice cream, available in their homes during the past week.

Most parents also reported consumption of fruits (88%), vegetables (83%), 100% fruit juice (78%), and milk (91%) at least twice per week, whereas 42% reported consumption of soda, 38% reported consumption of fruit drinks, and 60% reported intakes of energy-dense snacks at least twice per week. Family meals were reported as frequent behaviors (89% of families) at least twice per week, whereas approximately 50% of the families reported eating a meal while watching television (TV) at least twice per week.

Children: lack of adherence to recommendations to dietary guidelines, including vegetables and added sugars.

In this sample, 47% of children were healthy weight, 25% were overweight and 28% were obese. The children’s HEI total score was 59.4 ± 8.8 and most of the HEI food components received only approximately half of the maximum score.

Children in this study obtained good scores for total fruit, whole fruit, dairy, and total protein foods; however they did not meet the recommendations for total vegetables, greens and beans, and whole grains, seafood and plant proteins, fatty acids, refined grains, sodium, solid fats, and added sugars. Parental reported intake of fruits and vegetables were found to be positively associated with children’s HEI total score. Soda and fruit drink availability at home were both associated with a significant, but modest, reduction in children’s HEI scores. Parental diet associations with children’s HEI total score included their reported intake of nutrient-rich and nutrient-poor, energydense foods and beverages.

Children with lower HEI scores had sugar-sweetened beverages available at home and participated in family meals while watching television more frequently, when compared with children with higher HEI scores.

The results suggest that home food availability, parental diet, and familial eating habits play an important role in the diet quality of Hispanic children. Interventions targeting family education should not only focus on having healthy foods available at home, but also include a focus on the reduction of nutrient-poor, energy-dense foods and beverages at home given that they might negatively affect children’s diet quality and overall health.


Based on: Santiago-Torres M, Adams AK, Carrel AL, LaRowe TL, Schoeller DA. Home food availability, parental dietary intake, and familial eating habits influence the diet quality of urban Hispanic children.2014. Oct;10(5):408-15.

  1. Ogden CL, Carroll MD, Flegal KM, et al. Prevalence of obesity and trends in body mass index among US children and adolescents, 1999–2010. JAMA 2012;307:483–490.
  2. Guo X, Warden BA, Paeratakul S, et al. Healthy eating index and obesity. Eur J Clin Nutr 2004;58:1580–1586.
  3. McNaughton SA, Bates CJ, Mishra GD. Diet quality is associated with all-cause mortality in adults aged 65 years and older. J Nutr 2012;142:320–325
  4. Gillman MW, Rifas-Shiman SL, Frazier AL, et al. Family dinner and diet quality among older children and adolescents. Arch Fam Med 2000;9:235–240
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