Use of food practices by childcare staff and the association with dietary intake of children at childcare.
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The study explored the associations between various childcare staff food practices and children's dietary intake at childcare. A total of 398 one- to four-year-old children and 24 childcare staff members from 24 Dutch childcare centers participated in the study. Children's dietary intake (fruit, vegetable, sweet snack, savory snack, water, and sweet drink intake) at childcare was registered on two weekdays, using observations by dieticians and childcare staff. Thirteen childcare staff practices were assessed using questionnaires administered by dieticians. Data were analyzed using multilevel regression analyses. Children consumed relatively much fruit and many sweet snacks at childcare, and they mainly drank sweet drinks. Various staff practices were associated with children's dietary intake. When staff explained what they were doing to the children during food preparation, children ate significantly more fruit. Children ate less sweet snacks when they were allowed to help prepare the meals. When staff encouraged children to continue eating, they ate more vegetables. In conclusion, the study showed the importance of childcare staff food practices for children's food intake at childcare. More research is needed to examine the specific conditions under which food practices can have a positive impact on children's dietary intake.