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J Am Diet Assoc. 2011 Jul;111(7):1021-30. doi: 10.1016/j.jada.2011.04.009.

Dietary intake in Head Start vs non-Head Start preschool-aged children: results from the 1999-2004 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.

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Yale School of Medicine, New Haven, CT 06511, USA.



To determine whether dietary intakes of children enrolled in Head Start programs differ from those of children not attending preschool or children in non-Head Start programs.


Using data from the 1999-2004 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, low-income, 3- to 5-year-old children were categorized into one of four preschool groups: Head Start (n=184), non-Head Start (n=189), past preschool (n=193), and no preschool (n=384). Total nutrient intakes were calculated using 24-hour parental recalls.


Mean macronutrient and micronutrient intakes were compared across groups and the percentage of children not meeting Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDAs) were calculated. Multivariate logistic regression was used to evaluate the relationship between preschool group and likelihood of not meeting dietary guidelines.


Many children did not meet the RDA for folate (20.5%), vitamin A (39.7%), vitamin E (79.7%), calcium (40.2%), iron (28.8%), and potassium (90.8%). Compared with the other preschool groups, Head Start children had lower mean protein, saturated fat, riboflavin, calcium, and phosphorous intakes. The greatest differences in intake were observed between Head Start participants and no-preschool children. Multivariate analyses demonstrated an association between Head Start and inadequate intake of protein, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, calcium, and selenium.


Compared with other low-income children, those in Head Start programs appear to be at greater risk for not meeting the RDA for several key vitamins and minerals. These differences in diet quality may present an opportunity for Head Start programs to enhance nutrition in this student population.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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