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Dietary sources of animal and plant protein intake among Flemish preschool children and the association with socio-economic and lifestyle-related factors

Yi Lin1, Selin Bolca2, Stefanie Vandevijvere3, Herman Van Oyen3, John Van Camp4, Guy De Backer1, Leng H Foo5, Stefaan De Henauw16 and Inge Huybrechts1*

Author Affiliations

1 Unit Nutrition and Food Safety, Department of Public Health, Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, Ghent University, De Pintelaan 185, B-9000 Ghent, Belgium

2 Laboratory for Bioinformatics and Computational Genomics (BIOBIX), Faculty of Bioscience Engineering, Ghent University, Coupure Links 653, B-9000 Ghent, Belgium

3 Scientific Institute of Public Health, Department of Public Health and Surveillance, J. Wytsmanstraat 14, B-1050 Brussels, Belgium

4 Department of Food Safety and Food Quality, Ghent University, Coupure Links 653, B-9000 Ghent, Belgium

5 Program of Nutrition, School of Health Sciences, Universiti Sains Malaysia, Health Campus, 16150 Kubang Kerian, Kelantan, Malaysia

6 University College Ghent, Department of Nutrition and Dietetics, Faculty of Health Care Vesalius, Keramiekstraat 80, B-9000 Ghent, Belgium

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Nutrition Journal 2011, 10:97  doi:10.1186/1475-2891-10-97

Published: 25 September 2011



The aims of this study were to assess the intake of animal, plant and food group-specific protein, and to investigate their associations with socio-economic and lifestyle-related factors in Flemish preschoolers.


Three-day estimated dietary records were collected from 661 preschoolers aged 2.5-6.5 y (338 boys and 323 girls). Multiple linear regression analysis was used to investigate the association between animal, plant, and food group-specific protein intake and socio-economic and lifestyle factors.


Animal proteins (mean 38 g/d) were the main source of total protein (mean 56 g/d), while mean plant protein intake amounted to 18 g/d. The group of meat, poultry, fish and eggs was the main contributor (51%) to animal protein intake, followed by milk and milk products (35%). Bread and cereals (41%) contributed most to the plant protein intake, followed by low-nutritious, energy-dense foods (21%). With higher educated fathers and mothers as reference, respectively, preschoolers with lower secondary and secondary paternal education had lower animal, dairy-, and meat-derived protein intakes, and those with lower secondary and secondary maternal education consumed less plant, and bread and cereal-derived proteins. Compared to children with high physical activity levels, preschoolers with low and moderate physical activity had lower animal and plant protein intakes. Significantly higher potatoes and grains-, and fish- derived proteins were reported for children of smoking mothers and fathers, respectively, compared to those of non-smoking mothers and fathers.


The total protein intake of Flemish preschoolers was sufficient according to the recommendations of the Belgian Superior Health Council. Parental level of education and smoking status might play a role in the sources of children's dietary proteins.

plant protein; animal protein; preschool children; socio-economic status; lifestyle-related factors; Flanders