In this podcast, we're delving into the topic of "Healthy Eating Interventions in Early Childhood Education and Care Settings", which is especially important because helping children to develop healthy eating habits early on can greatly influence their dietary choices later in life. Here’s one of the authors, Melanie Lum, talking with lead author, Serene Yoong from Deakin University in Australia about the June 2023 Cochrane review of 52 randomized trials.
Mike: Hello, I'm Mike Clarke, podcast editor for the Cochrane Library. In this podcast, we're delving into the topic of "Healthy Eating Interventions in Early Childhood Education and Care Settings", which is especially important because helping children to develop healthy eating habits early on can greatly influence their dietary choices later in life. Here's one of the authors, Melanie Lum, talking with lead author, Serene Yoong from Deakin University in Australia about the June 2023 Cochrane review of 52 randomized trials.
Melanie: Hello Serene and thanks for doing this podcast. So, let's get right into it. We understand that interventions based in childcare centers, including preschools, kindergartens, and family daycares, can significantly impact children's eating behaviours. So, could you tell us more about the types of healthy eating programs that were assessed in the studies in the review?
Serene: Thank you so much Melanie. It's a pleasure to be here. The programs covered a range of components, including targeted changes to the childcare environment, incorporating healthy eating education and lessons, fostering strong partnerships with parents, and even incorporating physical activity alongside the healthy eating initiatives.
Melanie: That sounds comprehensive! What about the results from the review? What were some of the key findings regarding the impact of these healthy eating programs on children's diets and overall health?
Serene: The review showed that these programs had a positive impact on improving the quality of the children's diets. This means that the children were consuming appropriate amounts and varieties of foods, and the programs also led to an increase in fruit intake and potentially vegetable intake as well. However, they did not seem to affect the consumption of snacks or sweetened drinks significantly.
Melanie: That's interesting! And, what about the effects on weight status and obesity risk in children?
Serene: Ah, yes! The review indicated that these healthy eating programs may have a positive impact on reducing weight gain trajectories and lowering the risk of overweight or obesity in children.
Melanie: That's encouraging news! Were there any other outcomes that the studies looked into?
Serene: Yes, but only to a limited extent. While the findings related to diet and weight were substantial, only a small number of studies assessed the potential benefits of these programs on other outcomes, such as social, emotional, and educational aspects of child development.
Melanie: I see. And did the review identify any specific elements within the programs that were particularly associated with positive child outcomes?
Serene: We didn't find any specific single element that was consistently linked to positive child outcomes. Most of the programs were multicomponent in nature, suggesting that addressing child environments, school curriculum, and fostering strong community and healthcare partnerships are essential for improved child outcomes.
Melanie: That's an important message for anyone looking to fund, develop and implement such programs. But, what about any potential negative outcomes or the cost of delivering these healthy eating interventions?
Serene: Overall, only a small number of studies looked at negative outcomes and cost. However, those that did, did not report any negative outcomes associated with the interventions. Moreover, the programs were generally considered cost-effective, which is encouraging for governments and institutions aiming to invest in children's health.
Melanie: Thanks. It's great to hear that the programs showed positive impacts without significant drawbacks. To summarize, what are the main takeaways from this review for our listeners?
Serene: In summary, the review highlights that healthy eating programs delivered in childcare centers can positively impact certain aspects of child diet and potentially influence weight gain trajectories. However, more research is needed to draw conclusions on their effects on child social, emotional, and educational outcomes. Finally, the multicomponent nature of these interventions emphasizes the importance of targeting multiple aspects of a child's environment to achieve lasting benefits.
Melanie: Thank you for sharing these valuable insights with us today, Serene! The importance of early childhood healthy eating interventions cannot be stressed enough, and your expertise has shed light on their potential impact. So, to finish, if people want to learn more by reading the review, how they can get hold of it?
Serene: Thanks Melanie. It was my pleasure and people can find the review online if they go to Cochrane Library dot com and search ‘healthy eating in early childhood'.