Objective: The aim of the present study was to evaluate the effects of a 1-year family-based healthy lifestyle intervention implemented through day-care centres on toddlers' BMI Z-scores and reported activity- and dietary-related behaviours.
Design: Pilot cluster-randomized controlled trial.
Setting: Seventy child-care centres in three different intervention communities and three paired-matched control communities in Flanders, Belgium.
Subjects: A sample of 203 Belgian toddlers aged 9-24 months was included in the study. Objectively assessed weight and height were used to calculate BMI Z-scores. A parental-report questionnaire was used to assess children's lifestyle behaviours.
Results: Positive intervention effects were found on BMI Z-score. No intervention effects were found for activity- and dietary-related behaviours targeted by the intervention. In both intervention and control groups, daily consumption of water, soft drinks, sweets and savoury snacks increased while daily consumption of fruit and vegetables decreased over 1 year. Daily physical activity remained stable but screen-time behaviour increased in both groups over time.
Conclusions: The study showed that a family-based healthy lifestyle intervention implemented through day-care centres can lead to healthier weight outcomes in toddlers. In both groups, an unhealthier lifestyle pattern was observed over 1 year which underlines the importance of the early childhood period as the focus of future behavioural interventions.