Evaluation of the nutrition counseling component of a fitness programme for children with disabilities.

OBJECTIVE: To describe and evaluate the nutrition counselling component of a fitness programme for children with disabilities.

METHODS: Twenty-eight children with disabilities, ages 6-14 years, participated in a 16-week comprehensive fitness programme consisting of twice weekly exercise sessions, nutrition counselling and physical activity promotion education sessions. Nutrition sessions consisted of three individual and two group sessions. Individual nutrition goals were developed for each child using 3-day food intake diaries and parent interview. Body Mass Index (BMI) and progress towards nutrition goals were documented.

RESULTS: No significant BMI changes were recorded for the entire group (n=28) or a sub-group with a goal to decrease BMI (n=8). Most of the children made improvements in individual goals indicating improvements in healthy eating habits. This included eating the daily recommended amount of servings of each food group, trying new foods and limiting foods containing saturated and trans fats, sodium and sugar.

CONCLUSION: Short-term changes were noted in eating habits and behaviours during the 16-week fitness programme, although the effects did not influence overall BMI during the 16-week programme. Children with disabilities are at nutritional risk, and long-term follow-up is needed to determine if initial changes in parent-reported child eating behaviours will impact long-term nutrition, BMI and overall health.