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Associations of food group and nutrient intake, diet quality, and meal sizes between adults and children in the same household: a cross-sectional analysis of U.S. households

Jennifer L Zuercher1, David A Wagstaff2 and Sibylle Kranz1*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Foods and Nutrition, Purdue University, 700 W. State Street, West Lafayette, IN 47906 USA

2 Department of Health and Human Development, The Pennsylvania State University, N12A Henderson Building, University Park, PA 16802 USA

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Nutrition Journal 2011, 10:131  doi:10.1186/1475-2891-10-131

Published: 28 November 2011



One might assume that individuals living in the same household have similar dietary intakes of food groups and nutrients. However, the manner in which an adult's dietary intake affects children's food consumption, diet quality (defined as meeting intake recommendations), and meal sizes is understudied to date. The objective of this study was to estimate these relationships between minor children and the female or male head of household.


Dietary intakes of one randomly selected child of each age group (2-5, 6-11, or 12-18 years old (n = 2,380)) and that of the female/male head of household ((HH), proxy for mother and father) using multiple 24-hour recalls from the Continuing Survey of Food Intake by Individuals (CSFII) 1994-1996 was coded to reflect food group and nutrient density (servings/grams per 1,000 kcal). Linear or logistic regression models were used to determine the association between intakes, whether individuals' diets trended toward meeting her/his intake recommendations, and whether individuals were in the highest quintile for food group densities at four distinct eating occasions (breakfast, brunch/lunch, supper/dinner, or other) in each subject group. Stata's survey commands were used to fit linear or logistic regression models and obtain adjusted regression coefficients or odds ratios.


Associations between food group/nutrient densities were significant but weak to moderate. Adults with diets that trended toward meeting their intake recommendations doubled the odds for children to have diets that trended toward meeting the recommendations; for many meals, adults consuming in the highest quintile for food group density predicted that children's intakes were also in the highest quintile.


Female and male adults living in the same household significantly affect children's food group and nutrient intakes, diet quality, and meal sizes. There is an urgent need for in-depth analysis to elucidate the underlying mechanisms, especially for studies involving both the female and male HH.

child nutrition; nutrition survey; food intake; eating behavior; diet quality