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© Borgis - New Medicine 2/2010, s. 45-49
*Sylwia Merkiel, Wojciech Chalcarz
Nutritional knowledge of the preschool staff from Nowy Sącz and the vicinity. Part 1. General principles of nutrition during childhood
Food and Nutrition Department of the Eugeniusz Piasecki University School of Physical Education in Poznań
Head of the Department: Dr hab. Wojciech Chalcarz, prof. nadzw. AWF
Summary
Aim. The aim of this study was to assess knowledge about general principles of nutrition during childhood in preschool staff from Nowy Sącz and the vicinity.
Material and methods. Questionnaires were filled in by 84 women who worked in eight preschools in Nowy Sącz and the vicinity. The questions concerned general principles of nutrition during childhood and general information about the studied staff. Statistical analysis was carried out by means of the SPSS 12.0 PL for Windows computer programme. The studied population was divided according to educational status.
Results. Educational status had a statistically significant influence on the position, the period of being employed in a preschool, age, marital status and number of children and on the answers to six questions concerning general principles of nutrition during childhood.
Conclusions. The level of knowledge about general principles of nutrition during childhood was varied among the studied preschool staff depending on their educational status, with the highest level of knowledge in the staff with higher education. It is particularly unfavourable that the staff with vocational education, most of whom prepared meals for children, were characterised by the lowest level of knowledge. The observed gaps in the studied staff's knowledge about general principles of nutrition during childhood indicate the need to include this issue in the educational programmes for both preschool teachers and kitchen staff.
INTRODUCTION
Nutritional knowledge of preschool staff is an important factor which affects children's food behaviour. It refers to those members of staff who are involved in planning menus and preparing meals for the children, since they have a direct influence on what children eat during their stay in the preschool. It also refers to teachers and directors, who are not only responsible for the children's preschool education but also – when having meals together with children – are an example for them to follow. The fact that children can learn food behaviour from their teachers' example was shown by an experiment carried out by Hendy and Raudenbush (1).
Published studies have shown that preschool menus are not balanced (2, 3) and that preschool children's parents are characterised by a low level of nutritional knowledge (4-7). Assessing nutritional knowledge of Polish preschool staff has so far been the aim of only one study (8).
AIM
The aim of this study was to assess knowledge about general principles of nutrition during childhood in preschool staff from Nowy Sącz and the vicinity.
MATERIAL AND METHODS
Questionnaires were filled in by 84 women who worked in eight preschools in Nowy Sącz and the vicinity. The studied population included all persons employed in those preschools who agreed to take part in the study. The questions concerned general principles of nutrition during childhood and general information about the studied staff.
Statistical analysis was carried out by means of the SPSS 12.0 PL for Windows computer programme. The studied population was divided according to educational status into three subgroups: staff with vocational education, staff with secondary education, and staff with higher education, that is those who graduated from university.
RESULTS
Table 1 presents general characteristics of the studied preschool staff by educational status. Educational status had a statistically significant influence on all of the analysed variables.
Table 1. General characteristics of the studied preschool staff.
No.ParameterEducationAll staff (n=84)
Vocational (n=21)Secondary (n=33)Higher (n=30)
1.Position [%]Director0.00.013.34.8
Teacher0.066.783.356.0
Teacher's assistant28.621.23.316.7
Cook28.63.00.08.3
Cook's assistant42.90.00.010.7
Area specialist0.06.10.02.4
Purchasing manager0.03.00.01.2
2.Duration of employment in a preschool [%]≤10 years38.121.243.333.3
>10 years to 20 years9.536.436.729.8
>20 years52.442.420.036.9
3.Age [years]mean ? standard deviation44.7 ? 5.4 a, b40.2 ? 7.6 a, c35.6 ? 9.8 b, c39.7 ? 8.7
4.Marital status [%]Unmarried4.83.023.310.7
Married90.581.873.381.0
Divorced0.012.13.36.0
Widow4.83.00.02.4
5.Number of children [%]None4.817.230.018.8
One4.820.726.718.8
Two33.331.036.733.8
Three33.324.13.318.8
Four19.03.43.37.5
Five0.03.40.01.3
Six4.80.00.01.3
Bold type denotes statistically significant results (p≤0.05).
The same letters denote a statistically significant difference between the subgroups (p≤0.05).
All the directors, 13.3% and 83.3% of teachers had higher education. Most of the staff with secondary education were employed as teachers (66.7%), and the highest percentage of staff with vocational education (42.9%) worked as cook's assistants. Among the staff with vocational and secondary education, the highest percentage of the women had worked in a preschool for more than 20 years (52.4% and 42.4%, respectively), whereas among the staff with higher education the highest percentage of the women had worked in a preschool for not more than 10 years (43.3%). Mean age of the staff with higher education was the lowest (35.6 years) and mean age of the staff with vocational education was the highest (44.7 years). The highest percentage of the staff with vocational education (90.5%) and the lowest percentage of the staff with higher education (73.3%) were married. Among the staff with vocational education, most had two or three children (33.3% each), whereas among the staff with secondary and higher education, most had two children (31.0% and 36.7%, respectively).
Table 2 shows the studied preschool staff's correct answers to the questions concerning general principles of nutrition during childhood. Educational status had a statistically significant influence on the answers to six questions: 1, 11, 12, 13, 14 and 15. To four of these questions, the most correct answers were given by the staff with higher education: 76.7% of them knew that sugar does not provide any additional nutrients in children's diets, 86.7% stated that plant protein should not be exchanged totally for animal protein in children's diets, 66.7% knew that content of animal protein in children's diets should be 30% to 50% of total protein, and 100.0% knew that children should not eat lard. To five of the six questions, question 11, 12, 13, 14 and 15, the least correct answers were given by the staff with vocational education.
Table 2. The studied preschool staff's correct answers to the questions concerning general principles of nutrition during childhood [%].
No.Correct answersEducationAll staff (n=84)
Vocational (n=21)Secondary (n=33)Higher (n=30)
1.Number of meals during the day recommended for children is four or more100.094.096.596.3
2.Intervals between meals recommended for children should be three hours or shorter89.596.892.893.5
3.Eating until the feeling of satiety is not recommended for preschool children50.071.066.764.9
4.Children should eat meals regularly94.7100.0100.098.8
5.Children should not eat between the main meals73.760.656.762.2
6.Preschool children should drink two glasses of milk a day50.048.551.750.0
7.Recommended daily intake of calcium for preschool children is 800 mg14.39.110.010.7
8.Protein should not provide the most energy in children's diets0.00.03.31.2
9.Fat should not provide the most energy in children's diets9.527.316.719.0
10.Carbohydrate should provide the most energy in children's diets71.472.773.372.6
11.Sugar does not provide any additional nutrients in children's diets57.160.676.765.5
12.Animal protein should not be exchanged totally for plant protein in children's diets61.981.880.076.2
13.Plant protein should not be exchanged totally for animal protein in children's diets52.478.886.775.0
14.Content of animal protein in children's diets should be 30% to 50% of total protein23.854.566.751.2
15.Children should not eat lard71.490.9100.089.2
16.Children should not eat pork fat81.093.996.691.6
17.Children should not eat bacon76.281.893.184.3
18.Children should eat vegetable oil90.593.9100.095.2
19.Children's intake of energy during their stay in preschool should be 50% to 75% of total energy intake71.463.666.766.7
Bold type denotes statistically significant results (p≤0.05).
It is worth mentioning that also to the remaining questions, statistically insignificant, the most correct answers were given by the staff with higher education and the fewest by the staff with vocational education.
DISCUSSION
The answers given by the studied preschool staff showed a varied level of knowledge about general principles of nutrition during childhood not only depending on the educational status but also on the question given. The most difficult questions were questions 7, 8 and 9 for all of the studied staff irrespective of their educational status and question 14 for the staff with vocational education. The percentages of correct answers ranged from 0.0% to question 8 for the staff with vocational and secondary education to 27.3% to question 9 for the staff with secondary education. Among questions of medium level of difficulty, to which the percentages of correct answers ranged from 48.5% to 86.7%, were questions 3, 5, 6, 10, 11, 12 and 13 for all of the studied staff irrespective of their educational status, question 14 for the staff with secondary and higher education and question 15 for the staff with vocational education. The easiest questions, to which the percentages of correct answers ranged from 89.5% to 100.0%, were questions 1, 2, 4 and 18 for all of the studied staff irrespective of their educational status, questions 15 and 16 for the staff with secondary and higher education and question 17 only for the staff with higher education.
In the few studies in which knowledge about general principles of nutrition during childhood was assessed (4, 5, 8), the educational status was not taken into account. Therefore, there is no information available on the differences in knowledge in this field in other populations of various educational status. Nevertheless, a study on premenopausal women (9) showed that those who had higher education were characterised by more favourable food habits and more of them broadened their nutritional knowledge. In the studied preschool staff the tendencies in nutritional knowledge were similar since to most of the questions the most correct answers were given by the staff with higher education. One would expect that the level of knowledge about general principles of nutrition during childhood among the staff with vocational education would be much higher since most of those women were involved in preparing meals for children. It indicates the need to organise regular training courses for the preschool staff, especially for those persons who prepare meals for the children, in order to update their nutritional knowledge.
The level of knowledge about general principles of nutrition during childhood among the studied preschool staff was higher than in the staff from preschools in Pabianice (8), but – in most cases – lower than in parents of the children (5) who attended the preschools in which the studied women were employed. Thus, the studied staff had a similar level of knowledge about the number of meals during the day recommended for children compared to the staff from preschools in Pabianice, 95.7% correct answers (8), but lower than parents of children from Nowy Sącz and the vicinity, 100.0% correct answers (5). The intervals between meals recommended for children were known by a lower percentage of the preschool staff from Pabianice, 80.3% (8), and the parents of children from the Nowy Sącz region, 88.9% (5). The studied staff were characterised by a higher level of knowledge that eating until the feeling of satiety is not recommended for preschool children compared to the preschool staff from Pabianice (8), who gave 51.9% correct answers, but lower compared to the parents of children from the Nowy Sącz region, 70.7% (5). Also the recommendation that children should eat meals regularly was known by a higher percentage of the studied staff compared to the preschool staff from Pabianice (8). As many as twice the percentage of the studied preschool staff compared to the preschool staff from Pabianice (8), 62.2% vs 33.3%, stated that children should not eat between the main meals. However, knowledge on this issue in the parents of children from the Nowy Sącz region (5) was higher than in the studied staff with higher education, but lower than in the studied staff with vocational and secondary education.
The studied preschool staff gave the lowest percentage of correct answers to the question about the number of glasses of milk a day which preschool children should drink, since the percentage of correct answers was 57.4% in the preschool staff from Pabianice (8), 57.9% in the parents of children from the Nowy Sącz region (5) and 54.0% in the parents of children from Pabianice (4). The question about the recommended daily intake of calcium for preschool children was very difficult not only for the studied staff but also for the preschool staff from Pabianice (8) and the parents of children from the Nowy Sącz region (5), similar to the question which required a statement that protein should not provide the most energy in children's diets. To the latter question the studied preschool staff gave the lowest percentage of correct answers, 1.2%, whereas 7.5% and 11.7%, respectively, of the parents of children from Pabianice (4) and from the Nowy Sącz region (5) answered correctly. A lower percentage of the studied staff compared to the parents of children from the Nowy Sącz region (5) knew that fat should not provide the most energy in children's diets, 19.0% and 30.8%, respectively, but a similar percentage stated that its main source should be carbohydrate, 72.6% and 73.3%, respectively.
A similar percentage of the studied staff, compared to the parents of children from the Nowy Sącz region (5), stated correctly that sugar does not provide any additional nutrients in children's diets, 65.5% and 69.2%, respectively. However, the correct answer to this question was given by only 16.7% of the preschool staff from Pabianice (8). In the case of this question, one would expect that all of the respondents would give a correct answer since this basic nutritional principle is passed down from generation to generation and has been spread for years by the mass media.
The fact that in children's diets animal protein should not be exchanged totally for plant protein and plant protein should not be exchanged totally for animal protein was known by 76.2% and 75.0% of the studied staff, respectively. The percentages of correct answers to these questions among parents of children from the Nowy Sącz region (5) were similar, 70.0% and 77.5%, respectively. However, the recommendation that content of animal protein in children's diets should be 30% to 50% of total protein was known by only 51.2% of the studied staff and 55.8% of the parents of children from the Nowy Sącz region (5).
The recommendation that children should not eat lard and pork fat was known by 89.2% and 91.6% of the studied staff, respectively, and 90.0% and 90.8% of the parents of children from the Nowy Sącz region (5), respectively. The fact that children should not eat bacon was stated by 84.3% of the studied staff and 79.2% of the parents of children from the Nowy Sącz region (5). A very high percentage of both the studied staff and the parents of children from the Nowy Sącz region (5) stated that children should eat vegetable oil, 95.2% and 94.2%, respectively.
A higher percentage of the studied staff, 66.7%, compared to the parents of children from the Nowy Sącz region, 63.3% (5), and the preschool staff from Pabianice, 57.2% (8), were familiar with the recommendation that children's intake of energy during their stay in preschool should be 50% to 75% of total energy intake.
CONCLUSIONS
1. The level of knowledge about general principles of nutrition during childhood was varied among the studied preschool staff depending on their educational status, with the highest level of knowledge in the staff with higher education. It is particularly unfavourable that the staff with vocational education, most of whom prepared meals for children, were characterised by the lowest level of knowledge.
2. The observed gaps in the studied staff's knowledge about general principles of nutrition during childhood indicate the need to include this issue in the educational programmes for both preschool teachers and kitchen staff.
Piśmiennictwo
1. Hendy HM, Raudenbush B: Effectiveness of teacher modeling to encourage food acceptance in preschool children. Appetite 2000; 34(1): 61-76. 2. Merkiel S, Chalcarz W, Wegner M: Ocena jadłospisów przedszkolnych. Część I. Energia i makroskładniki. Medycyna Środowiskowa 2009; 12(1): 75-80. 3. Chalcarz W, Merkiel S, Wegner M: Ocena jadłospisów przedszkolnych. Część II. Witaminy i składniki mineralne. Medycyna Środowiskowa 2009; 12 (1): 81-84. 4. Chalcarz W, Hodyr Z: Wiedza żywieniowa rodziców dzieci w wieku przedszkolnym. Materiały X Jubileuszowej Międzynarodowej Konferencji Naukowej: Uwarunkowania środowiskowe zdrowia dzieci. Legnica 1-2 czerwca 2001 roku, 117-121. 5. Merkiel S, Chalcarz W: Wiedza żywieniowa rodziców dzieci przedszkolnych z Nowego Sącza i okolic. 1. Wiedza ogólna o żywieniu dzieci. Żyw Człow Metab 2009; 36(2): 385-389. 6. Chalcarz W, Merkiel S: Wiedza żywieniowa rodziców dzieci przedszkolnych z Nowego Sącza i okolic. 2. Żywienie w profilaktyce chorób dietozależnych. Żyw Człow Metab 2009; 36(2): 390-395. 7. Merkiel S, Chalcarz W: Wiedza żywieniowa rodziców dzieci przedszkolnych z Nowego Sącza i okolic. Część 3. Bogate źródła składników mineralnych i witamin. Nowa Pediatria 2010; 14(1): 15-20. 8. Chalcarz W, Hodyr Z, Drabikowska-Śrama A: Wiedza żywieniowa pracowników przedszkoli. Nowa Medycyna 1999; 6(7): 62-67. 9. Merkiel S, Chalcarz W, Chmielewska S: Food behaviour and attitude towards nutritional knowledge in premenopausal women. New Med (Wars.) 2009; 13(1): 13-18.
otrzymano: 2010-04-29
zaakceptowano do druku: 2010-05-18

Adres do korespondencji:
*Sylwia Merkiel
Zakład Żywności i Żywienia Akademii
Wychowania Fizycznego w Poznaniu
Droga Dębińska Str. 7, 61-555 Poznań
phone: +48 61 835 52 87
e-mail: sylwiamerkiel@awf.poznan.pl

New Medicine 2/2010
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