To determine the nutrient intakes and status of preschool children from a representative population sample in Adelaide.

Cross-sectional survey of children aged 1-5 years, using a stratified random sampling method and a doorknocking strategy, between September 2005 and July 2007.

Dietary intake, assessed using a 3-day weighed-food diary; anthropometrics, biomarkers of iron, zinc and vitamin B(12), and fatty acid profiles assessed using standard methods.

Median energy intakes were within dietary recommendations for the age group. Overall energy contributions from carbohydrate, protein, fat and saturated fat intakes were 50%, 17%, 33% and 16%, respectively. The rates of inadequate intake of iron, zinc, calcium and vitamin C were low, as was the prevalence of iron deficiency (5%). Only a minority of children achieved the adequate intake for n-3 long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (32%) and dietary fibre (18%). There was no association between socioeconomic status and intakes of macronutrients and key micronutrients. Fourteen per cent of children were obese (BMI, > 95th percentile); no association between BMI and energy intake was shown.

The dietary intake of children in the study was adequate for macronutrients and the majority of micronutrients. However, low intakes of fibre and n-3 long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids and high saturated fat intakes have raised concerns that this dietary pattern may be associated with adverse long-term health effects.