The healthiness of processed foods frequently consumed by children in early childhood development centres in the North West Province
Introduction: The prevalence of infant, childhood and adolescent obesity is increasing globally. In South Africa, 20.5% of children aged two to five years are overweight or obese and regional and international comparisons show that South African children at pre-school age have a major problem with overweight and obesity. Obesity is associated with numerous diseases such as stroke and high blood pressure. Little is known about childhood nutritional intakes in the age group of two to five-year olds. Diet, especially the consumption of processed foods, plays an important role in childhood obesity. Objectives: The aim of this research was to determine the healthiness of frequently consumed processed foods of children aged two to five years. Specific objectives included (i) determining which processed foods were frequently consumed by children in this age group and (ii) determining the healthiness of these frequently consumed processed foods by means of nutrient profiling. Methods: Twenty-four-hour dietary recall (24HDRs) interviews were conducted to assist with compiling a food frequency questionnaire (FFQ) to determine the consumption of specifically processed food by the study population. Parents and caregivers of children aged two to five years were recruited through early childhood development centres. The children’s processed food consumption was captured using the newly developed FFQ. The most frequently consumed processed foods were then identified and assessed for healthiness using the South African nutrient profiling model. Results: In this study, 51 participants partook in the 24HDRs and 119 participants volunteered to take part in completing the FFQ. Sixteen processed foods were identified as being most frequently consumed by the children aged two to five years. These foods (listed form most to least frequently consumed) were brown bread, crisps, macaroni, Viennas, strawberry yogurt, tub-margarine, soft sweets, chocolate muffins, chocolates, vanilla ice cream, hard sweets, polony, cola carbonated drinks, apricot jam, breakfast cereal (high in fibre) and take aways. Eleven (11) of these 16 processed foods (68.75%) were classified by the South African nutrient profiling model as less healthy. Conclusions: Most of the processed foods consumed by children aged two to five years in this sample study were less healthy. The foods identified as unhealthy had a high fat and/or salt and/or sugar content. It is recommended that further research should be done to determine the energy contribution of processed foods to children aged two to five years’ diet to link childhood obesity with processed food consumption. What is more, priority should be given to the education of parents and caregivers regarding healthier food choices for their children using the South African Food-Based Dietary Guidelines.
- Health Sciences