Purpose: Preschoolers' dietary intake behaviours are described from the perspective of their parents.
Methods: A maximum variation sample of 71 parents of preschoolers participated in this qualitative study. Ten semi-structured focus group interviews were conducted. Two experienced moderators facilitated all focus groups, which were audio-recorded and transcribed verbatim. Strategies to ensure trustworthiness of the data were employed throughout the study. Two team members independently performed inductive content analysis. NVivo software was used to code the emerging themes.
Results: Parents identified food and food issues as key health-related behaviours among preschoolers. Parents discussed challenges to healthy eating, including time limitations and societal pressures, as well as methods for facilitating healthy food choices, including bribery, education, and being creative with food.
Conclusions: Dietary intake is on the minds of preschoolers' parents. Unfortunately, some methods that parents currently use to promote healthy food choices may be more detrimental than beneficial for children in the long term. Parents' keen interest in their preschoolers' eating habits may make them particularly receptive to learning about and facilitating healthy choices in more behaviourally appropriate ways. Widespread educational messages about the benefits and detriments of various strategies to facilitate healthy eating among preschoolers therefore seem warranted.