Maternal diets matter for children's dietary quality: Seasonal dietary diversity and animal-source foods consumption in rural Timor-Leste

Gianna Bonis-Profumo, Natasha Stacey, Julie Brimblecombe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review


Improving the dietary quality of women and children is essential to reduce all forms of malnutrition. In this study, we assessed seasonal child and maternal dietary diversity and consumption of animal-source foods (ASF), using 1,236 observations from combined data collected among 167 mother–child dyads in rural Timor-Leste. We used generalized linear and logistic mixed-effects models to examine the dietary differentials of mothers and children in two agricultural livelihood zones and across the seasons, as well as to identify household and agroecological characteristics associated with children's dietary quality in relation to their mothers'. We found dietary quality to be marginally better in coastal than in mid-altitude zones. However, women's diets were strikingly poor, and their intake of ASF was lower than among children. Mothers exhibited preferential allocation patterns of specific ASF, dairy products and eggs, to children. The intake of ASF was predicted by seasonality. Flesh foods and red meat were much more likely to be consumed during the dry season, when cultural ceremonies are often performed. We found a positive and strongly significant association between children's dietary indicators—dietary diversity score, minimum dietary diversity and ASF consumption, and those of their mothers'. Maternal dietary quality and educational attainment, more so than agroecological characteristics, were explanatory factors of children's diet. Our study highlights that addressing the dietary quality of children in Timor-Leste would benefit from improving women's diets through better access to nutritious foods and to secondary education.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere13071
Number of pages15
JournalMaternal & Child Nutrition
Publication statusAccepted/In press - Aug 2020


  • agroecological zones
  • animal source foods
  • dietary diversity
  • seasonality
  • Timor-Leste

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