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Child Care Health Dev. 2010 May;36(3):396-403. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2214.2010.01072.x. Epub 2010 Mar 9.

The association of maternal food intake and infants' and toddlers' food intake.

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  • 1The Miriam Hospital and The Alpert Medical School of Brown University, Providence, RI, USA. chantelle_hart@brown.edu



Young children's first experiences with food may influence development of food preferences and lifelong eating habits. However, little is known about what factors are associated with the development of eating behaviours in infants and toddlers. Studies with older children and adolescents suggest that parental food intake is associated with children's food intake. The purpose of the present paper is to determine whether this association starts even earlier during infancy and toddlerhood.


A convenience sample of n= 98 primarily African American mothers of children 6-18 months old completed questionnaires, including questions on their own and their young child's food intake. Mothers completed questions while waiting to be seen by their child's primary care provider.


Per maternal report, children consumed fruit 2.45 (1.79) times, vegetables 1.63 (1.51) times and snack foods 2.22 (2.49) times each day. Infants' and toddlers' fruit (r= 0.54, P < 0.001), vegetable (r= 0.42, P < 0.001) and snack food (r= 0.37, P < 0.001) intake were significantly associated with maternal intake of each of these foods, respectively. These significant associations remained even after controlling for additional study variables.


Even at very young ages, maternal food intake is an important correlate of children's food intake. Taken together with findings documenting significant snack food consumption in this age group, findings suggest that development of prevention and intervention programmes to enhance healthy eating behaviours need to start very early, perhaps just prior to children being introduced to complementary foods.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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