Dietary intake of Aboriginal Australian children aged 6-36 months in a remote community: A cross-sectional study

Emma Tonkin, Dani Kennedy, Sarah Hanieh, Beverley Ann Biggs, Therese Kearns, Veronica Gondarra, Roslyn Dhurrkay, Julie Brimblecombe

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Background: Scarce literature comprehensively captures the transition to solid foods for children in remote Aboriginal Australian communities, a population expected to be especially vulnerable to nutritional inadequacy for largely socio-economic reasons. This study describes the dietary intake of children aged 6–36 months in a remote Aboriginal community during the years of solids introduction and establishment. Specifically, we aimed to explore milk feeding practices, major sources of nutrition and traditional food consumption, dietary patterns and nutrient and food group intakes, and compare these to national and international recommendations.

Methods: This dietary assessment was conducted as part of an observational, cross-sectional Child Health and Nutrition study. Three 24-h dietary recalls were completed with the parent/care-giver of each participant over 2–4 weeks, capturing a pay-week, non-pay-week and weekend day from October 2017–February 2018. Additional information collected included sociodemographic data, food security status, usual cooking practices, and attendance at playgroup.

Results: Diet histories for 40 children were included in the analysis (~ 40% of the population). Breast feeding rates were high (85%), with mothers exclusively feeding on demand. Very few participants met recommended intakes for
wholegrains (n = 4, 10%), vegetables (n = 7, 18%), dairy (n = 5, 18%) and fruit (n = 13, 33%), while more children met the guidelines for meat (n = 19, 48%) and discretionary food intake (n = 28, 70%). Traditional foods were always nutritionally dense and consumed frequently (n = 22, 55% of children). Statistically significant pay-cycle differences in intakes of all macro-, and numerous micro-nutrients were observed.

Conclusions: Many positive early feeding practices are currently enacted in remote Aboriginal communities including responsive and long duration breastfeeding, and nutrient-dense traditional food consumption from earliest solids introduction. However, the non-pay-week/pay-week cycle is impacting the quality and quantity of children’s diets at a time of rapid growth and development.
Original languageEnglish
Article number34
Pages (from-to)1-12
Number of pages12
JournalNutrition Journal
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 15 Apr 2020


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