Objective: The aim of this paper is to analyse the relationships between eating behaviours (picky eating, irregular eating and overeating), and dietary adequacy in accordance with nutrition recommendations and body weight during the preschool years.
Design and setting: Our analyses were performed using data from the Longitudinal Study of Child Development in Québec (1998-2002), a population-based birth cohort.
Subjects: The study followed a representative sample (n=2103) of children born in 1998 in the Canadian province of Québec.
Methods: Eating behaviours were derived from self-administered questionnaires when children were 2.5, 3.5 and 4.5 years. Nutrition data were collected from one 24-hour recall interview conducted at home by trained nutritionists at 4.5 years. Children's weight and height were measured at 4.5 years. Statistical analyses were carried out with SAS (version 8.2). Weighted data adjusted for within-variability were used in the analysis, and the significance level was set at 5%.
Results: Picky eaters consume fewer total fats, less energy and less protein than children never reporting picky eating behaviours. Picky eaters were more likely to consume less than dietary recommendations for fruit and vegetables, and meat and alternatives. Overeaters consumed more total energy and more of each macronutrient than children who were never reported as overeaters during the preschool years. These children consumed more servings of grain products and meats and alternatives per day than children not classified as overeaters. Even when the number of servings of grain products consumed was similar for overeaters and children who were never overeaters, overeaters had higher body mass index.
Conclusion: Given that children as young as 4.5 years are displaying some form of problematic eating behaviour which is shown to be related to dietary adequacy and body weight, public health professionals should be targeting parents of young children to provide messages about strategies for coping with problematic eating behaviours in early childhood.