Objective: To describe the meal patterns and food use on weekdays among 10- to 11-year-old Finnish children and to analyse these in relation to family's socio-economic status and the child's behaviour.
Design: Cross-sectional study on a cohort of 404 children aged 10-11 years in the rural town of Ylivieska, mid-western Finland.
Methods: A food-frequency questionnaire including questions on meal patterns and food use and the Child Behaviour Checklist (CBCL) completed by the parents and the child together.
Results: Practically all children (99%) ate breakfast regularly, 94% had a daily school lunch and 80% had dinner at home daily. Vegetables were consumed daily at home by 26% and fruits or berries by 21%, while 46% of the children had salad daily at school. Twenty-four per cent ate sweets daily or nearly so on weekdays. The children from families of high socio-economic status ate vegetables more often, and fewer of them used butter or high-fat milk. The children with no regular family dinner ate sweets and fast foods more often, and had higher total CBCL problem scores than those with a regular family dinner.
Conclusion: Skipping meals appears not to be common among Finnish children aged 10-11 years, but a considerable proportion consume sweets frequently and vegetables infrequently. High family socio-economic status and a tendency to eat together are associated with healthy food choices among schoolchildren.