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Keywords:

  • dietary patterns;
  • PCA;
  • ALSPAC;
  • toddlers

Abstract

Little is known about the dietary patterns of toddlers. This period of life is important for forming good dietary habits later in life. Using dietary data collected via food frequency questionnaire (FFQ) at 2 years of age, we examined the dietary patterns of children from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC). Principal component analysis was performed for 9599 children and three patterns were extracted: ‘family foods’ associated with traditional British family foods such as meat, fish, puddings, potatoes and vegetables; ‘sweet and easy’ associated with foods high in sugar (sweets, chocolate, fizzy drinks, flavoured milks) and foods requiring little preparation (crisps, potatoes, baked beans, peas, soup); ‘health conscious’ associated with fruit, vegetables, eggs, nuts and juices. We found clear associations between dietary pattern scores and socio-demographic variables, with maternal education being the most important. Higher levels of education were associated with higher scores on both the ‘family foods’ and the ‘health conscious’ patterns, and decreased scores on the ‘sweet and easy’ pattern. Relationships were evident between dietary pattern scores and various feeding difficulties and behaviours. Notably, children who were introduced late to lumpy (chewy) solids (after 9 months) scored lower on both the ‘family foods’ and the ‘health conscious’ patterns. Further analyses are required to determine the temporal relationship between perceived feeding difficulties and behaviours, and it will be important to assess the contribution of the age of introduction to lumpy solids to these relationships.