Parents, hold the sugar and pass the broccoli! A new survey has found nine out of 10 school aged kids are juice-swilling, sugar munching monsters who don’t eat enough veggies.
But that’s not all. Almost half of pre-schoolers eat ‘sometimes’ foods – lollies, chocolate, hot chips – every day.
At least, those are (some of) the findings from a recent National Child Health Poll: Kids and Food.
Healthy food is confusing: parents
The Royal Children’s Hospital polled 1980 parents of 3704 kids between the ages of one month and 18 years. And Dr Anthea Rhodes, paediatrician and poll director, says that the findings show that when it comes to healthy eating, parents are confused.
“It can be incredibly hard for parents to know what’s in the food and drink products they choose for their families,” says Dr Rhodes. “I’m a parent myself and I know how much time and energy is put into feeding the family every day.”
Just over half of parents say choosing healthy food is confusing and difficult, while two thirds of parents find it hard to tell how much added sugar is in the food products they buy for their children. Unsurprisingly, 53% of parents find nutrition information labels hard to read and understand.
Stumped by the sweet stuff
When it comes to sugar, over a quarter of parents mistakenly believe that fruit drinks are a healthier option than water, while a third of Aussie kids regular guzzle sugar-sweetened drinks.
“There is no need for children to have juice or other sugar-sweetened drinks,” Dr Rhodes says. “Consuming these products can lead to unhealthy weight gain and tooth decay.”
Treat foods are another hot potato, with almost half of preschoolers eating sweets and other ‘sometimes’ foods more than four times per week.
“There are so many processed and packaged foods available these days with many being marketed as healthy choices,” says Dr Rhodes. “It can be incredibly hard for parents to know what’s in the food and drink products they choose for their families.”
A nation of veggie dodgers?
While the majority of children love their fruit (more than two-thirds get their two serves per day), veggies are another story. Veggie intake, for the most part, is inadequate across all age groups, from infants up to teens. Indeed just 5% of primary school kids and teenagers eat five serves a day. Eeek!
“I don’t think getting kids to eats their veggies is a new challenge,” says Dr Rhodes. “But there are certainly a lot more processed, high calorie convenience foods that are easily available to families these days, making it harder for parents to get their kids to stick to the healthy stuff.”
What can parents do?
Choosing the right foods to feed the family can be daunting but it IS possible. “Parents make choices every day, many times day, about food for their kids,” says Dr Rhodes. “Parents can start by being more aware of what is in the foods they buy for their families. Have a look at our resources about how to read nutritional labels, or use a food switch app, to assist with knowing what’s really in the foods you buy.”
Choosing less processed foods, water instead of juice and fresh fruit and veggies for snacks instead of things like chips or bickies are all easy ways to make a change.
And the best way to avoid problem foods? Just don’t buy em’! “Where possible, don’t buy the chips and chocolates, soft drinks and processed snacks,” says Dr Rhodes. “If they are not in the cupboard, the kids will be less likely to eat them!”
Got a fussy eater on your hands? Check out these nine paediatrician approved tricks to deal with tricky eaters.