Background Childhood nutrition influences growth and the development of lifelong eating behaviours. Fruit and vegetable (F&V) intakes significantly below the recommended five portions of F&V per day have been observed among children (age 5-12) in Ireland. Parents play a pivotal role in influencing their children’s dietary behaviour. This study aimed to assess whether parental attitudes towards F&V influence their children’s F&V daily consumption levels.
Methods As part of an evaluation of the EU School Fruit, Vegetables, and Milk Scheme, parents of 1st, 3rd and 5th class children were invited to complete an online questionnaire. Questions assessed parents’ and children’s intake of various foods, including F&V. Parental attitudes towards the importance of F&V in children’s diets were also examined. Descriptive statistics and Pearson Chi-square tests were performed.
Results A total of 422 parents participated in this study. 19% of parents reported that their children consumed at least four servings of F&V per day. No statistically significant difference was observed in parental attitudes across children’s vegetable consumption levels. A significant difference (p = 0.004) in the importance of fruit in children’s diets across consumption levels was observed. 91% of parents whose children consumed F&V less than daily agreed with the statement that ‘It is important to me that my child eats fruit’, compared to 100% of parents whose children consumed at least four servings of F&V per day.
Conclusion In this study, most primary school children did not eat the recommended daily servings of F&V. Although one difference was observed in the importance of fruit in children’s diets across consumption levels, parental attitudes towards vegetables did not influence children’s intake. Therefore, future analysis should consider other parental factors that may influence child F&V intake levels, including food availability and parental consumption.
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