Incorrect Feeding Practices, Dietary Diversity Determinants and Nutritional Status in Children Aged 6-23 Months: An Observational Study in Rural Angola

Children (Basel). 2023 Nov 30;10(12):1878. doi: 10.3390/children10121878.


Background: More than a quarter of children who are affected by severe acute undernutrition reside in Sub-Saharan Africa. Incorrect feeding practices have a negative impact on a child's health in both the short and the long term, and the interval from conception to two years is the most critical for the development of undernutrition-related complications. These first 1000 days of life also represent an "opportunity window" for early interventions, hence, having a clear insight into dietary habits and the determinants of diet quality is fundamental to improving nutritional counseling practices.

Objectives: To investigate incorrect feeding practices, dietary diversity determinants and nutritional status in children aged 6-23 months.

Methods: Prospective quali-quantitative observational study conducted at the Missionary Catholic Hospital of Chiulo (Angola) from March to April 2023.

Results: Of 250 children, global acute malnutrition affected 25.2% and was associated with starting complementary feeding at <4 months of age (p = 0.007) and not achieving the minimum meal frequency (p < 0.0001). Minimum dietary diversity was found in 11.2%, minimum meal frequency was experienced by 72.8%, and the minimum acceptable diet was found in 11.2% of participants. The minimum dietary diversity was reached only by households with access to food from five or more major food groups (p = 0.007) or the money to buy food from five or more major food groups (p = 0.008) and was higher in households where the householder had a higher educational level (p = 0.002). Regarding the determinants linked to family traditions and beliefs, the main religion-associated beliefs concerned the impurity of pork (n = 25) and fish (n = 8), while eggs (n = 19) and cow milk (n = 8) were the main food types that were deemed harmful for children.

Conclusions: Although some factors (economic and religious) may be difficult to overcome, other factors linked to erroneous beliefs (dangerous foods) or incorrect feeding practices (early weaning and an incorrect frequency of meals) can be targeted, to improve the effectiveness of nutritional counseling practices.

Keywords: dietary diversity; incorrect feeding practices; malnutrition.

Grants and funding

This research received no external funding.