Background: Whether outdoor time is linked to dietary patterns of children has yet to be empirically tested. The objective of this study was to examine the association between outdoor time and dietary patterns of children from 12 countries around the world.
Methods: This multinational, cross-sectional study included 6229 children 9-11 years of age. Children self-reported the time that they spent outside before school, after school and on weekends. A composite score was calculated to reflect overall daily outdoor time. Dietary patterns were assessed using a food frequency questionnaire, and two components were used for analysis: healthy and unhealthy dietary pattern scores.
Results: On average, children spent 2.5 h outside per day. After adjusting for age, sex, parental education, moderate-to-vigorous physical activity, screen time and body mass index z-score, greater time spent outdoors was associated with healthier dietary pattern scores. No association was found between outdoor time and unhealthy dietary pattern scores. Similar associations between outdoor time and dietary patterns were observed for boys and girls and across study sites.
Conclusions: Greater time spent outside was associated with a healthier dietary pattern in this international sample of children. Future research should aim to elucidate the mechanisms behind this association.