Variety and frequency of fruit and vegetables eaten by young New Zealand children : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Science in Nutrition and Dietetics at Massey University, Albany, New Zealand

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Background: Habitually consuming a variety of fruit and vegetables (FVs) is vital for healthy physical and neurocognitive development in children. High FV variety is positively associated with increased fibre and micronutrient intake. Despite amassing evidence relating health benefits to FV intake and variety in the early stages of life, little is known about the frequency and variety of FVs that young children in Aotearoa New Zealand (NZ) consume. Aims and objectives: The overall aim of this study was to explore FV intake in the diets of young NZ children aged 1-4 years. The primary objective was to describe the frequency and variety of FV consumption. The secondary objective was to explore socioeconomic factors associated with the frequency and variety of FV consumed in NZ children. Methods: This study is an observational cross-sectional study utilising data from the Young Foods New Zealand study. Dietary and socioeconomic data from 289 children aged 1-4 years was collected through two 24-hour dietary recalls and a questionnaire. Dietary data were analysed using FoodWorks nutrient analysis software based on the New Zealand food composition database. Independent t-tests and one-way ANOVAs determined differences between variety scores and demographic characteristics. Results: Bananas (71%) and carrots (49%) were the fruits and vegetables consumed by the highest proportion of participants. Leafy greens was the vegetable subgroup consumed the least (20.8%). The fruit variety score (FVS), vegetable variety score (VVS) and fruit and vegetable variety score (FVVS) achieved by the highest number of children was three (22%), four (15%) and nine (15%), respectively. Children’s ethnicities influenced fruit variety score (FVS) (F[3, 284] = 5.42, p=0.001), vegetable variety score (VVS) (F[3, 285] = 6.09, p < 0.001) and FV variety score (FVVS) (F[3, 285] = 8.95, p < 0.001). Variety scores increased with lower number of children in a household. Variety scores were also inversely associated with household deprivation levels. Respondents (i.e., a parent or caregiver) being on unpaid parental leave resulted in the highest variety scores (FVS= 4.77, VVS= 4.91, FVVS=10.55). Regarding the respondent’s education level, those who went to university cared for children with the highest variety scores (FVS = 3.75, VVS = 4.81, FVVS = 9.33). Conclusion: All socioeconomic factors measured influenced children’s FV variety scores in some way. Results regarding the most frequently consumed FVs were similar to that of past literature. The results from this study provide a picture of what FVs young children in Aotearoa NZ are consuming and suggest that the relationship between FV consumption and socioeconomic factors warrants further investigation.