Objective: This study evaluates the contribution of energy-dense, nutrient-poor 'extra' foods to the diets of 16-24-month-old children from western Sydney, Australia.
Design: An analysis of cross-sectional data collected on participants in the Childhood Asthma Prevention Study (CAPS), a randomised trial investigating the primary prevention of asthma from birth to 5 years. We collected 3-day weighed food records, calculated nutrient intakes, classified recorded foods into major food groups, and further classified foods as either 'core' or 'extras' according to the Australian Guide to Healthy Eating.
Setting: Pregnant women, whose unborn child was at risk of developing asthma because of a family history, were recruited from all six hospitals in western Sydney, Australia. Data for this study were collected in clinic visits and at participants' homes at the 18-month assessment.
Participants: Four hundred and twenty-nine children participating in the CAPS study; 80% of the total cohort.
Results: The mean consumption of 'extra' foods was approximately 150 g day(-1) and contributed 25-30% of the total energy, fat, carbohydrate and sodium to the diets of the study children. 'Extra' foods also contributed around 20% of fibre, 10% of protein and zinc, and about 5% of calcium. Children in the highest quintile of 'extra' foods intake had a slightly higher but not significantly different intake of energy from those in the lowest quintile. However, significant differences were evident for the percentage of energy provided by carbohydrate and sugars (higher) and protein and saturated fat (lower). The intake of most micronutrients was also significantly lower among children in the highest quintile of consumption. The intake of 'extra' foods was inversely associated with the intake of core foods.
Conclusions: The high percentage of energy contributed by 'extra' foods and their negative association with nutrient density emphasise the need for dietary guidance for parents of children aged 1-2 years. These preliminary data on commonly consumed 'extra' foods and portion sizes may inform age-specific dietary assessment methods.