A pre-school-based dietary survey, using seven-day records, focus group interviews and semi-structured interviews, was carried out in a suburban area of Stockholm. The overall objective was to investigate the individual food and nutrient intake of pre-school children at all meals during the day, as well as factors that might influence children’s intake.
The average energy and nutrient intake per day for the whole week was satisfactory for the 109 pre-school children, but the temporal distribution throughout the day was skewed. The energy and nutrient intakes of food at the pre-school were lower than recommended. This was, however, compensated for by meals eaten at home. The children had a more varied food intake during weekdays than weekend days. This study has not provided any evidence to support the selection of water versus milk as a preferable lunch beverage in terms of pre-school children's total milk consumption and general dietary quality. However, the dietary analyses showed that there could be a reason to limit pre-school children’s daily milk and fermented milk intake to half a litre, according to the existing guidelines.
The children associated food and eating with rules and norms. They did not categorise food as good or bad, as adults often do, but as "food" and "non-food"; for example, sweets were not food. The method used in this study, the focus group interview, was judged to be a useful tool for exploring how children think about and jointly reflect upon food. The role of the teacher had changed over the past years and they had not yet found a solid ground for integrating food and meals into their everyday work.