Early life determinants of dietary patterns in preschool children: Rhea mother-child cohort, Crete, Greece

Eur J Clin Nutr. 2016 Jan;70(1):60-5. doi: 10.1038/ejcn.2015.93. Epub 2015 Jun 17.


Background/objectives: The determination of dietary patterns in children examines the effects of the overall diet at early ages, instead of looking at individual foods or energy providing nutrients. The present analysis aims to identify the dietary patterns of preschool children and to examine their associations with multiple socio-economic and lifestyle characteristics.

Subjects/methods: Dietary data were collected for 1081 children participating in the Rhea mother-child cohort in Crete, Greece. Diet was assessed using a validated food frequency questionnaire, and dietary patterns were identified with principal component analysis. Multivariable linear regression models were used to examine factors associated with each dietary pattern.

Results: Three dietary patterns were identified explaining 45.8% of the total diet variation. The 'Mediterranean' pattern was based on pulses, olive oil, vegetables, fish and fruits; the 'Snacky' pattern included potatoes and other starchy roots, salty snacks, sugar products and eggs; the 'Western' pattern contained cereals, cheese, added lipids, beverages and meat. Preschool attendance and increased time spent with the mother (⩾2 h/day) were positively associated with the 'Mediterranean' pattern, whereas watching TV was inversely associated with this pattern. Lower parental education, maternal age and earlier introduction to solid foods were positively associated with the 'Snacky' pattern. Higher scores on the 'Western' type diet were associated with exposure to passive smoking and watching TV. No variation in energy providing nutrient intake was observed across tertiles of the identified dietary patterns.

Conclusions: The results from this analysis indicate the important role of socio-demographic factors on children's dietary preferences in early age.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Child, Preschool
  • Cohort Studies
  • Diet Surveys
  • Diet*
  • Energy Intake
  • Family
  • Feeding Behavior*
  • Female
  • Greece
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Life Style*
  • Male
  • Mothers*
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Young Adult