A Parent-Directed Portion Education Intervention for Young Children: Be Beary Healthy

Friday, 3 August 2012: 10:35 AM

Leigh Small, PhD, RN, PNP-PC, FNAP1
Darya Bonds-McClain, PhD1
Linda Vaughan, PhD, RD2
Alex Gannon, BS3
Sharon Thompson, BS1
(1)College of Nursing and Health Innovation, Arizona State University, Phoenix, AZ
(2)School of Nutrition and Health Promotion, Arizona State University, Phoenix, AZ
(3)School of Letters and Sciences, Arizona State University, Phoenix, AZ

Purpose: Despite evidence that increased portion sizes may contribute to overweight/obesity in young children, guidelines for feeding preschool children remain unclear and difficult to relate to parents.

Methods:  The purpose of this single-group pilot study, which used a pre-/post-test design, was to determine the preliminary effects of a parent-focused, skill-building intervention on parents’ knowledge of healthy nutrition for preschoolers, parents’ skill of providing age-appropriate food portions to their child, and the child’s dietary intake. The intervention provided to parents consisted of audiotaped and written information, and suggested activities using a special plate designed to facilitate appropriate provision of food portions for preschool children. The 45 participant parents were mothers, 23-53 years old (M = 34.6 years, SD = 6.4); their children were 4-6 years (M = 4.5 years, SD = 0.6). After completing formal consenting and pre-testing, parents were provided child nutrition information, skill-building recommendations, and portion-related activities. 

Results: Paired samples t tests were conducted to examine the difference between macronutrients mothers served and children consumed at pre- and post-testing.  The average total daily calories mothers served significantly decreased (t = 3.92, p = .00), as did the average total daily calories the children ate (t = 3.35, p = .00) and the average amounts of fat/saturated fat, protein, and carbohydrates pre- to post-test.  Effect sizes for each macronutrient ranged from .10 to .60, with medium effects for the total daily calories and carbohydrates served and consumed. No significant difference was found between pre- (M = 14.8) and post-test (M = 15.3) scores for parents’ knowledge of healthy nutrition (t = -1.12, p = .26).

Conclusion: Results suggest that outcomes were most likely related to parents reducing the portions served rather than an increase in parents’ nutrition knowledge.  Preliminary findings warrant a full-scale, randomized control investigation.