The family child care home environment and children's diet quality.
BACKGROUND: Developing healthy eating behaviors and food preferences in early childhood may help establish future healthy diets. Large numbers of children spend time in child care, but little research has assessed the nutritional quality of meals and snacks in family child care homes. Therefore, it is important to assess foods and beverages provided, policies related to nutrition and feeding children, and interactions between providers and children during mealtimes. We examined associations between the nutrition environments of family child care homes and children's diet quality. METHODS: We assessed the nutrition environments of 166 family child care homes using the Environment and Policy Assessment and Observation (EPAO) (scores range: 0-21). We also recorded foods and beverages consumed by 496 children in care and calculated healthy eating index (HEI) (scores range: 0-100). We used a mixed effects linear regression model to examine the association between the EPAO nutrition environment (and EPAO sub-scales) and child HEI, controlling for potential confounders. RESULTS: Family child care homes had a mean (standard deviation, SD) of 7.2 (3.6) children in care, 74.1% of providers were black or African American, and children had a mean (SD) age of 35.7 (11.4) months. In adjusted multivariable models, higher EPAO nutrition score was associated with increased child HEI score (1.16; 95% CI: 0.34, 1.98; p = 0.006). Higher scores on EPAO sub-scales for foods provided (8.98; 95% CI: 3.94, 14.01; p = 0.0006), nutrition education (5.37; 95% CI: 0.80, 9.94; p = 0.02), and nutrition policy (2.36; 95% CI: 0.23, 4.49; p = 0.03) were all associated with greater child HEI score. CONCLUSIONS: Foods and beverages served, in addition to nutrition education and nutrition policies in family child care homes, may be promising intervention targets for improving child diet quality.
Benjamin-Neelon, SE; Vaughn, AE; Tovar, A; Østbye, T; Mazzucca, S; Ward, DS
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