Nutritional status, dietary intake patterns and nutrition knowledge of children aged 5-6 years attending kindergartens in the Klang Valley, Malaysia.Malays J Nutr. 2012 Aug; 18(2):231-42.MJ
Early childhood is a period during which many factors influence the development of lifelong eating habits. This study aimed to assess the nutritional status of young children and to determine factors related to eating habits.
A total of 992 children aged 5-6 years attending kindergartens that participated in the Bright Start Nutrition programme in the Klang Valley were included in the study. Anthropometric measurements were taken and body mass index (BMI) calculated. A questionnaire to assess the children's nutrition knowledge was administered through interviews, while their mothers self-administered another set of questionnaires regarding knowledge, attitude and practice on nutrition.
The mean BMI was 15.7 +/- 2.7 kg/m2 in boys and 15.4 +/- 2.4 kg/m2 in girls. Based on the WHO 2007 growth reference, the prevalence of overweight and obesity were 9.1% and 9.3%, respectively; while the prevalence of thinness and stunting were 5.8% and 3.9%, respectively. Most of the children consumed breakfast (86.4%), lunch (94.1%) and dinner (93.4%) daily. The majority liked fruits (95.1%), snacks (93.8%), Western fast food (93.3%) and milk (90.8%), while less than two-thirds (65.1%) liked vegetables. The mean nutrition knowledge scores for the children and mothers were 73.2 +/- 9.8% and 60.2 +/- 18.8%, respectively. Maternal nutrition knowledge was correlated positively with children's vegetable intake (r=0.111, p<0.05) and negatively with snack intake (r = -0.134, p<0.05).
These results showed a higher prevalence of overweight and obesity than underweight and thinness among the urban young children studied. As mother's nutrition knowledge was found to exert a positive influence on children's eating habits, it is important to provide nutrition education to both mothers and children when conducting intervention programmes.