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Cancer Control Research

5R01CA107545-03
Nicklas, Theresa Ann
PREDICTORS OF CHILDREN'S SERVING SIZES & MEALTIME INTAKE

Abstract

Childhood obesity is a public health problem. Obesity among children is high and has been increasing in prevalence since the mid 1970s. An estimated one in four children are at risk of overweight, while 11 percent are overweight. Mean age at which obesity begins is 5.5 years. Obesity tracks over time; that is, obese children tend to become obese adults. While key contributing factors have not been elucidated, most experts agree that weight gain occurs when dietary intake exceeds energy expenditure. Children's eating patterns are initiated early in life (i.e., 2- to 5-years of age), indicating that the preschool period represents a sensitive point in development during which healthful eating patterns may be fostered. Children's intake of fruit and vegetables (FV) does not meet the recommended minimum of 5 daily servings, and placing them at increased risk for development of obesity, cancer and several chronic diseases. The proposed research focuses on portion size and mealtime intake, including FV, in two low income minority groups, African-Americans (AA) and Hispanic-Americans (HA), at risk for developing obesity, and cancers later in life. Evidence suggests that by the time children are 3 or 4 years old, eating is no longer deprivation driven but is influenced by children's increased responsiveness to environmental cues regarding food intake. Exposure to larger portion sizes is one strong environmental cue that is positively associated with increased intake of those foods. Little is known, however, about the factors that may determine the portion sizes to which young children are routinely exposed. Specifically, whether children's mealtime portion sizes vary as a function of the characteristics of the caregivers has not been studied. Child-care settings constitute an increasingly important social environment in which food-related behaviors of young children develop as the number of young children who eat outside of their parents' care continues to grow. As such, child-care feeding practices have important implications for the development of eating patterns, particularly those practices involving portion size. The goal of the current research is to evaluate mealtime intake of Head Start preschool children as a function of portion size and to evaluate different theoretical approaches to predicting caregiver portion size. These different theoretical approaches capture a variety of characteristics of caregivers including knowledge, attitudes, and beliefs about food serving practices, namely portion sizes. We will also examine additional characteristics of caregivers (e.g., ethnicity, body mass index, feeding styles and practices, and eating behavior) as well as characteristics of the child (e.g., ethnicity, gender, body mass index). This research will be examining portion sizes of energy dense foods (e.g., entrees) as well as FV. Understanding what influences the portion sizes of energy dense foods and FV will provide insight on intervention strategies for decreasing excessive intake of energy dense foods and increasing FV intake early in childhood.


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