Home packed food for nursery children in United Arab Emirates provides suboptimal quality

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Mediterranean Journal of Nutrition and Metabolism


© 2020 - IOS Press and the authors. All rights reserved. BACKGROUND: Early childhood nutrition is associated with health outcomes later in life, hence developing health promoting habits from an early age is imperative. OBJECTIVE: The aim of this study was to assess the nutritional adequacy of home-packed food brought to the nurseries by attending children. METHODS: In a cross sectional study conducted in 7 nurseries in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates 315 food-boxes were assessed through detailed food observations at the nurseries prior to mealtimes. The food content was evaluated using the Alberta Guidelines for nursery food, Canada. RESULTS: Most food boxes contained refined grains (77.5%), fruits (74.6%), sweet/full fat dairy products (77.5%), discretionary-calorie-food-items (70.6%). Emirati children were offered sweetened drinks significantly more (p<0.001). Non-dairy protein sources, vegetables, low-fat-natural-dairy products were offered to 45.4%, 44.1% and 3.9% of children, respectively. Overall, 70.2% of the food-boxes contained not-recommended food and 63.1% of the children were served a very poor food combination. CONCLUSIONS: Despite frequent inclusion of recommended food, many food boxes were nutritionally inadequate due to their low content of whole grains, low-fat dairy products, vegetables and animal proteins and high content of sweet food and drinks. The inadequate dietary patterns necessitate developing nutrition guidelines for nurseries in Abu Dhabi.

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IOS Press

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