Objective: To assess correlations between the cost and the nutritional quality of the diets of preschool children from low socioeconomic status families, taking into account intakes of micronutrients and foods with high concentrations of sugars and fats.
Methods: This was a cross-sectional study undertaken with 346 children aged 3 to 4 years recruited for the "Ten steps in action" (BRATSA I) study, who comprise a nested cohort from the randomized field study. Two 24-hour dietary recall surveys were conducted. Expenditure on food was calculated by taking the price of each food, as verified at a number of different establishments, and adjusting it for the quantity eaten.
Results: Mean expenditure on food for one child was R$ 100.17+/-34.1 per month. There was a positive correlation between intakes of iron (r = 0.115; p = 0.033), zinc (r = 0.214; p < 0.001), and vitamins A (r = 0.197; p < 0.001) and C (r = 0.162; p < 0.001), adjusted to 1,000 kcal, and expenditure on food/1,000 kcal. There were no significant relationships between expenditure on food/1,000 kcal and risk of overweight (p = 0.208) or intake of foods with a high fat or sugar content (p = 0.894 and p = 0.964).
Conclusions: The study found that consumption of energy provided by fat and sugar-rich foods was not associated with expenditure on feeding these 3-to-4-year-olds. In contrast, nutritional quality, assessed in the form of essential micronutrient intakes, demonstrated a positive correlation with food costs.