Changes in Dietary Habits and Physical Activity of School going children due to COVID-19 imposed restrictions in Pakistan

Main Article Content

Sidra Raza, Abdul Rehman Aleemi, Ayesha Zahid Khan, Tayyab Raza Fraz, Muhammad Faisal Fahim

Keywords

Covid-19, food frequency, meal intake, positive negative trends, School age children

Abstract

Balanced diet improves school performance, mental health, brain capacity and cognitive capabilities. However, COVID-19 led to changes in dietary patterns and physical activity among school age children. This study aims to explore and assess changes in dietary habits and physical activity of school-aged children (6-11 years) due to COVID-19 lockdowns. Questionnaire-based survey was conducted to capture dietary intake and physical activity pattern of school-aged children for about 286 families. Several dimensions regarding children’s food intake and physical activity pattern were assessed revealing some positive and some negative changes in dietary habits. Among the positive findings are; increase in intake of breakfast (84% daily), meat (44% occasionally), salad (30% frequently), lentils& beans(40% daily), fruits (44% daily), milkshakes/smoothies (11% daily), homemade chapattis (69% daily) and decrease intake of market Naan (45%occassionally), packet juices (36% daily),processed foods (4% daily) and flavoured milk (3.7% daily).  Negative trends are; increased mid-night meals (43% frequently), desserts (46% occasionally),  cream (3.4% daily), cakes (6.4% daily), chips (17% daily), sweets (3%), savory products (46% occasionally), soda drinks (4.4% daily) and tea (16% daily).An alarming decrease in physical activity was observed too. In addition, significant relationship between certain variables such as, mothers’ education with breakfast compliance, mothers work with more home cooked foods, screen eating and weight gain was also observed. Nutrition education should focus to help children continue positive trends and alleviate the negative trends to prevent present and long-term undesired health outcomes.

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