Parental practices, preferences, skills and attitudes on food consumption of pre-school children: Results from Nutriscience Project

PLoS One. 2021 May 25;16(5):e0251620. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0251620. eCollection 2021.


The association between family environment and child's eating behaviors is well established but a multidimensional approach to study this relation is lacking. This study aimed to assess the proprieties of a questionnaire created to evaluate parental practices, preferences, skills and attitudes regarding fruit and vegetables (F&V), sugar and salt. Participants (n = 714) were families of pre-school children (aged 2-6 years old) of the Nutriscience Project-a web-based gamification program-who answered a questionnaire assessing socio-demographic characteristics, nutrition knowledge, and a scale evaluating parental practices, preferences, skills and attitudes, at the baseline of the project. Exploratory factorial analysis was applied to the scale: 21 items and 5 factors were extracted (52.4% of explained variance) with a Kaiser-Meyer-Olkin (KMO) value of 0.770: 1. Modelling/active promotion of F&V consumption (α = 0.73), 2. Skills for choosing/preparing healthy food (α = 0.75), 3. Food preferences and satiety perception (α = 0.70), 4. Awareness regarding sugar/salt intake (α = 0.61), 5. Allowance regarding F&V consumption (α = 0.55). Kruskal-Wallis and Mann-Whitney tests were conducted to compare factors according to socio-demographic characteristics. Higher scores for parental modelling and active promotion of F&V consumption were observed in older parents, those with higher nutrition knowledge and who reported to live without income difficulties. Regarding food preferences, higher scores were observed in mothers, with higher nutrition knowledge and from higher educated groups. Higher awareness regarding salt and sugar consumption were observed in older parents, with higher education, higher nutrition knowledge and with female children. Older parents and with female children also registered higher scores of skills for choosing/preparing healthy food. The scale showed satisfactory proprieties and may contribute to assess family food environment using a multidimensional approach. It also highlighted the importance of considering socio-demographic characteristics in interventions to promote healthy eating.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Feeding Behavior*
  • Female
  • Food Preferences*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Parent-Child Relations*
  • Parents*
  • Socioeconomic Factors

Grant support

This study was financed through national funding from the Foundation for Science and Technology—FCT (Portuguese Ministry of Science, Technology and Higher Education), under the projects UIDB/04750/2020 and UID/QUI/50006/2020. Individual PhD grants attributed to CA (2020.08208.BD) was funded by FCT and the "Programa Operacional Regional Norte" (NORTE 2020/FSE). The funders had no role in the design, analysis or writing of this paper.