'They Are Kids, Let Them Eat': A Qualitative Investigation into the Parental Beliefs and Practices of Providing a Healthy Diet for Young Children among a Culturally Diverse and Deprived Population in the UK.
In the UK, ethnic minority children are at greater risk of obesity and weight-related ill health compared to the wider national population. The factors that influence the provision of a healthy diet among these populations remain less understood. An interpretive qualitative study with a phenomenological perspective comprised of 24 single sex semi-structured focus groups was conducted with 110 parents (63 mothers and 47 fathers) of young children (aged 0-5 years). The participants were recruited from deprived and ethnically diverse wards in Luton, UK and self-identified as being white British, Pakistani, Bangladeshi, black African-Caribbean or Polish. The findings highlighted a wide range of inter-relating psychological and sociocultural factors that underpin parental beliefs and practices in providing children with a healthy diet. Parents, whilst aware of the importance of providing children with a healthy diet, faced challenges such as lack of time and balancing competing responsibilities, which were clear barriers to providing children with a healthy diet. Access to and affordability of healthy food and the overexposure of cheap, convenient, and unhealthy processed foods made it increasingly difficult for parents to provide a healthy diet for their growing families. Household food practices were also found to be situated within the wider context of sociocultural and religious norms around cooking and eating, along with cultural identity and upbringing.