Identifying eating habits in Finnish children: A cross-sectional study
AuthorDe Oliveira Figueiredo, Rejane Augusta; Viljakainen, Jannina; Viljakainen, Heli; Roos, Eva; Rounge, Trine Ballestad; Weiderpass, Elisabete
Background - We aimed to identify different eating habits among Finnish children and to evaluate their association with meal patterns, breakfast consumption, and socio-demographic characteristics in a large, nationwide cohort of children.
Methods - We evaluated 10,569 children aged 9–14 years into the Finnish Health in Teens cohort in a cross-sectional design. The hierarchical K-means method was used to identify groups of children with different eating habits, based on five factors obtained through factor analysis of 10 food items. Multiple correspondence analysis was used to show associations between groups with different eating habits and meal patterns, breakfast patterns, gender, age, and language spoken at home.
Results - Analyses identified three groups: unhealthy eaters (12.3%), fruit and vegetable avoiders (43.3%), and healthy eaters (44.1%). Most children had regular meal and breakfast patterns. The proportion of boys was higher among unhealthy eaters. Unhealthy eaters also showed irregular meal and breakfast patterns, and had parents with low education level. There was a higher proportion of girls among healthy eaters. Healthy eaters also showed regular meal and breakfast patterns, and had parents with high education level.
Conclusions - Although the number of unhealthy eaters was small, special attention should be still paid to these, mostly male children, as they have poor eating habits and they lack regular eating routine. Skipping breakfast was more common among older children and girls, although girls had healthier eating habits overall. Our results can contribute to public health efforts to improve eating behaviours, especially among children with poor eating habits and those skipping healthy food items.