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Diet and eating habits of expectant parents and families in Ras Al Khaimah, Emirates: an exploratory study.Steen, Mary; Mottershead, Richard; Idriss, Johaina; Parletta, Natalie; Ellahi, Basma; Kumardhas, Vijaya; University of South Australia; Higher Colleges of Technology, Ras Al Khaimah; United Arab Emirates University; University of South Australia; University of Chester; RAK Medical and Health Sciences University (Royal College of Midwives, 2017-06-31)Background. Obesity is a problem that has reached epidemic proportions around the globe, attaining an alarming level in Arab Gulf countries. Poor diets and a lack of essential nutrients being consumed by pregnant women has been acknowledged, and it is recognised that parental eating habits and preferences can contribute to the development of unhealthy diets in children. However, there have been no studies exploring diet and eating habits that have targeted expectant parents and their families in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Aim. To explore the diet and eating habits of expectant parents and their families during pregnancy and test the feasibility of introducing an EatWell Assist workshop and diary, to increase awareness of healthy eating to improve family diet and nutritional status. Method. Participants were recruited from three study sites in Ras Al Khaimah, UAE. Initially, a purposive sample of 20 expectant mothers and 10 expectant fathers were interviewed. Phase 2 of the study recruited 15 expectant mothers and five female family members or close friends to attend on e of three EatWell Assist workshops and complete a diary for four weeks. Thematic analysis of interview transcripts and simple analysis of the structured questionnaire was undertaken. Results. The thematic analysis identified seven main themes for expectant mothers’ current diets and eating habits. These were: knowledge and understanding, eating patterns, fast foods, using supplements, likes and dislikes, body image, influences. Five similar main themes emerged for expectant fathers but the theme, ‘no supplements’, was in contrast to expectant mothers’ ‘using supplements’, and ‘body image’ did not emerge. Overall, the findings demonstrated the workshop evaluations were positive and participants gained knowledge and valued the opportunity to attend. Completing an EatWell food diary enabled expectant mothers to improve their diets and eating habits. Conclusions. Expectant parents’ current diet and eating habits were significantly influenced by the availability of a Western diet as well as traditional foods and cultural eating preferences. There was some improvement in healthy eating behaviours after attending a healthy eating workshop and keeping a daily food diary. Expectant fathers’ work commitments and women’s preferences inhibited opportunities for them to receive healthy eating education. Strategies to engage with expectant fathers need to be implemented and online education options may be worth considering.