Objectives. The aim of this study was to investigate the dietary habits of immigrant childrenwho come to Italy from developing countries, and of their families.Methods. A multicentre cross-sectional study was carried out from Jan. 1st 2003 to Dec.31st 2004. The study population comprised 1284 immigrant mothers, 629 infants, and 767children with more than 2 years of age. A structured questionnaire was employed to inquireretrospectively on dietary habits and, on breastfeeding, complementary breastfeeding,bottle-feeding and weaning.Results. Exclusive and complementary breastfeeding was more frequent and of longer durationamong immigrant infants than Italian infants, but not compared to infants living inthe immigrants’ native countries, compared to whom breastfeeding was lower and ofshorter duration. Age and manner of weaning among immigrant infants were similar toItalian ones. Immigrant children older than 2 years preferred foods from their native countriesonly in a few cases, and the rates of their morning and afternoon snacks were higherin Italy than in their native countries. In Italy, immigrant children consume eggs, fish, vegetables,legumes, and tea less often, and bread, pasta and oat flakes more often than in theirnative countries. These dietary habits might likely be related to both being born and havingmigrated to Italy since more than 4 years. Immigrant families are also inclined to adoptItalian dietary habits.Conclusions. Our investigation suggests that immigrant children and their families areadopting Italian eating habits. Considering the association between diet in infancy andchildhood, and the development of some diseases later on in life, paediatricians must paygreat attention to dietary habits among immigrant children.
- Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health