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Public Health Nutr. 2009 Jun;12(6):739-47. doi: 10.1017/S1368980008003248. Epub 2008 Aug 1.

Meals and snacks from the child's perspective: the contribution of qualitative methods to the development of dietary interventions.

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  • 1Research Unit for Dietary Studies, Institute of Preventive Medicine, Copenhagen University Hospital, Centre for Health and Society, Oster Sogade 18, DK-1357 Copenhagen K, Denmark.



To explore the everyday consumption of meals and snacks from the child's perspective, among those with healthier v. less healthy dietary habits.


The sample in this qualitative study comprised two groups of Danish schoolchildren aged 10 to 11 years, one with a healthier diet (n 9) and the other with a less healthy diet (n 8). Both groups were recruited from respondents to a dietary survey. Semi-structured interviews took their starting point in photographs of their meals and snacks taken by the children themselves.


Both subgroups of children had a meal pattern with three main meals and two to four snacks. We found a connection between the nutritional quality of the diet and the social contexts of consumption, especially with regard to snacks. Among children with healthier eating habits, both snacks and meals tended to be shared social events and items of poor nutritional quality functioned as markers of a special social occasion. This was not the case among children with less healthy eating habits. All children described particular rules governing food consumption within their families. Although only some of them had participated in the development of these rules, and despite the fact that rules were different and were perceived as having been developed for different reasons, children from both subgroups tended to accept them.


The results of the study suggest that dietary interventions designed to promote children's health should focus more on the different social contexts of consumption and more on the role of parents.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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