A comparison of parental views of their pre-school children's 'healthy' versus 'unhealthy' diets. A qualitative study

Appetite. 2014 May;76:129-36. doi: 10.1016/j.appet.2014.02.001. Epub 2014 Feb 10.


Despite recommended dietary guidelines, recent population surveys have recorded low fruit and vegetable and high non-core food consumption by Australian children. Young children rely on parents or primary carers to provide their diets; therefore pre-school age is an optimal time to promote and encourage healthy child eating behaviours. Identified contributing factors to a child's eating behaviour and diet in the home environment include parenting style, parent feeding practices and attitudes, parent nutrition knowledge, and home food availability. The aim of this study was to qualitatively explore perceptions, perceived influences, facilitators and barriers when providing healthy foods for young children via focus groups with parents of children with 'healthy' versus 'unhealthy' diets. Thematic analysis identified similarities across both groups including an intention to provide healthy food for their children with most parents involving their child in some level of meal preparation and most families dining together for the evening meal. Main points of difference included parents in the 'healthy' group having more partner support in relation to child diet, a willingness to say 'no' without wavering, and considering their child's daily physical activity when deciding appropriate food options. A majority of parents in the 'unhealthy' group attempted to disguise vegetables and healthy foods for their child and reported experiencing increased levels of stress regarding their child's fussy eating.

Keywords: Children; Diet; Feeding Practices; Fruit and Vegetables; Non-core foods; Parenting.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Child, Preschool
  • Diet
  • Energy Intake
  • Feeding Behavior*
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Food, Organic*
  • Fruit
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice*
  • Health Promotion*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Parenting
  • Parents*
  • Qualitative Research
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Vegetables