Home packed food for nursery children in United Arab Emirates provides suboptimal quality

Malin Garemo, Amal Elamin, Andrew Gardner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


BACKGROUND: Early childhood nutrition is associated with health outcomes later in life, hence developing health promoting habits from an early age is imperative. OBJECTIVE: The aim of this study was to assess the nutritional adequacy of home-packed food brought to the nurseries by attending children. METHODS: In a cross sectional study conducted in 7 nurseries in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates 315 food-boxes were assessed through detailed food observations at the nurseries prior to mealtimes. The food content was evaluated using the Alberta Guidelines for nursery food, Canada. RESULTS: Most food boxes contained refined grains (77.5%), fruits (74.6%), sweet/full fat dairy products (77.5%), discretionary-calorie-food-items (70.6%). Emirati children were offered sweetened drinks significantly more (p<0.001). Non-dairy protein sources, vegetables, low-fat-natural-dairy products were offered to 45.4%, 44.1% and 3.9% of children, respectively. Overall, 70.2% of the food-boxes contained not-recommended food and 63.1% of the children were served a very poor food combination. CONCLUSIONS: Despite frequent inclusion of recommended food, many food boxes were nutritionally inadequate due to their low content of whole grains, low-fat dairy products, vegetables and animal proteins and high content of sweet food and drinks. The inadequate dietary patterns necessitate developing nutrition guidelines for nurseries in Abu Dhabi.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)329-339
Number of pages11
JournalMediterranean Journal of Nutrition and Metabolism
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2020

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