Effects of childcare on parents' attitudes and behaviors in shaping their child's food habits
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The purpose of this study was to determine whether parents of children who attend childcare centers have different attitudes and behaviors toward shaping their child's eating habits than parents of children who stay at home, and whether these attitudes and behaviors affect their child's dietary intake and weight. Fifty parents of 3- to 5-year-old children who attended childcare centers and fifty parents of 3- to 5-year-old children who stayed at home in Central Texas participated in the study. Parents completed questionnaires designed to measure the factors they considered when choosing food for their child, and their perceived influence on, satisfaction with, responsibility for, and control over their child's eating habits. After receiving training and measuring utensils, parents completed 3-day dietary records for their child. A researcher recorded the children's food intake when they were at the childcare center. Children's height and weight were measured, and body mass index was plotted on the CDC BMIfor- age growth charts (2000). Twelve percent of childcare children were obese compared to 2 percent of stay-at-home children (p<0.05). Children in childcare consumed more energy, vegetables, fat, saturated fat, and sweetened beverages than stay-at-home children (p<0.05), mostly due to consumption at the center. Both groups met requirements for all food groups and nutrients except grains, vegetables, and vitamin E. Their diets were too high in fat, contributing 32 percent of total energy. There was no evidence that parents of children in childcare felt less responsible for, less influential on, more satisfied with, or exerted less control over their child's diet than stay-at-home parents. Parents of childcare children believed that they and the childcare center shared responsibility for their child's nutrition. They felt that time was a more important factor in choosing food for their child than did stay-at-home parents. Parents who perceived lack of time to be an obstacle had children who consumed less energy, iron, and fat during the evening hours. Parents of overweight children felt more influential on and were more satisfied with their child's diets than parents of normal weight children. No other parental attitudes were predictive of children's food intake or weight status.