Dietary Intake Among Head Start Preschooler-caregiver Dyads

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The purpose of this study was to examine the relationship between Head Start preschooler-caregiver dyad's dietary intake and factors influencing dietary intake.

Design and Methods:

A cross-sectional, correlational design was used. Height and weight were measured. Caregivers completed an online survey assessing demographics, dietary intake, feeding practices, and psychosocial factors.


Seventy dyads, recruited from two urban Head Start centers in the Midwestern U.S., participated. The mean age for preschoolers and caregivers was 3.90 (63% female) and 28.97 years (94% female), respectively. About 43% of preschoolers and 81% of caregivers were overweight/obese. Sixty-seven percent of caregivers, but only 9% of preschoolers, met the fruit/vegetable (F/V) recommendation. Preschoolers' F/V intake was not significantly correlated with their caregivers' F/V intake after adjusting for demographics and psychosocial factors (B = 0.05, p = .607). Caregiver race (B = −0.71, p = .05), nutrition knowledge (B = −0.35, p = .017), perceived caregiver weight (B = −0.85, p = .035), perceived child weight (B = 1.09, p = .029), and concerns of preschoolers' weight (B = 0.79, p = .004) were significantly correlated with preschoolers' F/V intake, after adjusting for demographics, caregiver F/V intake, and other psychosocial factors.


The study findings indicate the critical need to improve preschoolers' dietary intake and the important influence of caregivers on their preschoolers' dietary intake. Given the few limitations of the study (e.g., small sample size, food frequency questionnaire), interpretation and application of the study's findings warrant caution.

Practice Implications:

Pediatric practitioners and researchers need to design effective programs to improve low-income Head Start preschoolers' dietary intake, thereby helping to curb the current childhood obesity epidemic.

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