Poor nutrition from first foods: A cross-sectional study of complementary feeding of infants and young children in six remote Aboriginal communities across northern Australia

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Abstract

Aim

To describe the first foods of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander infants and young children who were recruited to a nutrition promotion and anaemia prevention program conducted from 2010 to 2012, in six remote communities across northern Australia.

Methods

Food records (24-hour diet history, food variety checklist) were completed on recruitment by interview with a parent or carer. Cross-sectional analysis assessed the proportion of participants consuming recommended and not-recommended foods and drinks and meeting recommendations for meal frequency and dietary diversity.

Results

Of 245 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander participants aged 6–24 months, 227 (92.7%) had a recruitment food record. On the previous day, most (67.4%) had breastmilk, nearly all (98.2%) ate solid food, but only 13% ate fruit, 33% had neither fruit nor vegetables, and 25% had sweet drinks. Children living in smaller households (3–5 people) were more likely to meet the criteria for frequency of meals than those living in larger households of 12–31 people (93% vs 78%, P = 0.012 for trend over household size). Only 30% met the criteria for dietary diversity. Where information was available (n = 91), dietary diversity was adequate more often in ‘pay week’ compared to ‘not pay week’ (31.3% vs 9.3%, P = 0.007).

Conclusion

Support for current beneficial breast-feeding practices and promotion of nutrient-dense complementary foods, need to be embedded in initiatives for improved family food security. Good nutrition in early life can reduce the disparity in health, education and economic status between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and other Australians.

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