1 University of Calgary, Canada.
Background: Nutrition education is a recommended strategy to improve health for children at risk for under-nutrition, however, these efforts are often not informed by examination of contemporary dietary practices of targeted populations. Iron and vitamin A content of diets are of particular importance given the impact and high prevalence of deficiencies of these essential micronutrients. The aims of this study were to determine (i) the most commonly consumed foods by children in the targeted community, (ii) iron and vitamin A content of these foods, and (iii) locally available iron- and vitamin Arich foods that are infrequently consumed. Methods: Caregivers of children under four years of age participating in an ongoing growthmonitoring program (GMP) were invited to participate in an evaluation component of the GMP. Caregivers participated in a structured interview with trained local staff at each GMP appointment. The interviews included questions eliciting types of liquids and solids consumed by the child in the previous 24 hours. Weighted frequency distributions of food types consumed were generated and nutritional values were determined using the USDA National Nutrient Database. Results: The five most frequently consumed foods were: rice (65.7%), juice (56.2%), milk (51.8%), beans (42.4%), and meat (34.9%) based on dietary histories of 157 children with 358 data points. Locally available but infrequently consumed foods (i.e., <5%) that are rich in iron and/or vitamin A included: pigeon peas, chicken liver, squash/pumpkin, lentils, carrots, sardines and spinach. Discussion: There is the potential to expand consumption of iron and vitamin A rich foods in the diets of children in the targeted community. Chicken liver may represent a particularly rich source of both micronutrients at a relatively low cost. Additional work is required to determine costs and palatable preparations of the low-frequency consumed foods that are rich in iron and/or vitamin A.