Parents of preschoolers, their understandings of nutrition concepts and messages and their sources of nutrition information
Epp Lepa, Katherine Lynn
There were two objectives for this study: First, to determine parents of preschoolers' understandings of various nutrition concepts and messages and to compare these understandings to the understandings indicated by Health Canada and other professional literature; second, to determine parents of preschoolers' sources of nutrition information and their preferred forms of nutrition information. Three focus group discussions were conducted with 13 middle income parents. Overall, the parents had attained a high level of education. Content analysis was used to analyze the transcripts. Parents demonstrated understanding of variety, moderation and balance. The food component, fibre, was also well understood. Some parents were concerned about fat in their preschoolers' diets; two of the parents were concerned because they did not want their preschoolers to become overweight. Many parents did not understand the concepts of total diet and Other Foods. Rather, many parents dichotomized foods into two groups, "healthy foods" and "junk foods". In addition, parents discussed several strategies to promote healthy eating to their preschoolers: strategies for meal planning; the verbal teaching strategy; the strategy of modelling healthy eating; strategies to reduce the intake of "junk foods"; using force and bribery as strategies; and using supplements as a strategy. Parents cited a variety of nutrition information sources. Parents requested more information about the behaviourial aspects of feeding preschoolers. Some preferred forms of nutrition information were other parents, recipes, informal workshops and video tapes. This research indicates that middle income parents of preschoolers would benefit from nutrition education about Other Foods, total diet, and about how to cope with various aspects of preschoolers' eating habits.