While the majority (78 per cent 3) of Australian parents believe they know the correct balance of food groups to feed their kids, a study by Nestlé's Healthy Active Kids (www.healthyactivekids.com.au) has found their actual understanding falls well short.
Conducted as part of the ‘Raising Nutrition Savvy Kids’ report, the study asked more than 1300 parents and carers about their knowledge of child nutrition and what they are doing in the kitchen.
Of those parents asked whether they were concerned about their children having a healthy, balanced diet, eight out of ten said that they were. Despite this, not one parent received full marks when asked specific questions about portion size and food groups, as recommended by the Australian Dietary Guidelines. Results included3:
• 51 per cent of parents correctly identified the five different food groups
• 50 per cent of parents correctly identified the correct portion size for one serve of fruit
• Two thirds of parents did not know that children aged 9 to 11 years should have five serves of vegetables and legumes a day
“In many cases, parents have no idea what constitutes a healthy serving. This is a big factor in Australia’s rising rate of obesity,” says Health educator and nutritionist, Professor Jenny O’Dea of the University of Sydney.
While 60 per cent3 of parents said they would like more information on nutrition to help their children eat healthy, balanced diets, 37 per cent3 said they did not have the time or energy to find out.
“Parents are interested in nutrition, however with so many sources of information, it can be confusing to understand what is accurate,” says Professor O’Dea.
Overwhelming, the majority of respondents (92 per cent 3) believed it was important for kids to learn about nutrition at school.
“Teaching about nutrition early means healthy behaviours can start younger. We want children to take healthy eating messages home so the whole family can change its behaviour for the better,” says Professor O’Dea.
Professor O'Dea has worked with Nestlé Healthy Active Kids to track the behaviour change and knowledge of teachers and students using the Nestlé Healthy Active Kids program - a free online resource written by teachers to raise awareness of nutrition, health and wellness as well as promote physical activity among primary school age children. The program is tailored to State and Territory curriculums for Health and Physical Education.
Nestlé Head of Wellness, Katrina Koutoulas, said that Nestlé is committed to helping address the nutrition knowledge gap, and provide much needed resources to schools, parents and carers from across the country.
"This study shows us that parents have a great desire for their children to live healthy active lives. But with parents and teachers increasingly time poor and confused with conflicting nutrition advice, it is difficult for them to give the right guidance to their kids. The Nestlé Healthy Active Kids teaching resource - written by teachers and in partnership with the Australian Institute of Sport, is an easy way to teach kids important healthy lifeskills," Ms Koutoulas said.
In addition to the online resource, Nestlé has developed Portion Plates and Lunchbox Guidelines for teachers and parents.
Additional research by Nestlé also revealed that kids who learn how to cook make healthier food choices.
To help encourage cooking, Nestlé Healthy Active Kids program is now also giving parents, teachers and carers the opportunity to nominate their child’s school to win The Kitchen Kart™, a fully equipped mobile teaching kitchen valued at $25,000. The winning entrant will also receive a $1,000 VISA Load&Go Gift Card to go towards keeping their family healthy and active.
Visit www.healthyactivekids.com.au for more information.
Survey snapshot by state.
Queensland parents are marginally more likely to worry about their child’s nutrition having a healthy, balanced diet than other states and they are the most likely (70 per cent) to be ‘under-feeding’ carbohydrates. They are also the least likely to seek advice about nutrition for their children (37 per cent).
NSW & ACT
Parents in New South Wales and the ACT are the least confident (27 per cent are not confident) that they know what balance of food groups and portion sizes should go on their child’s dinner plate or in their lunchbox. They are also the most likely (30 per cent) to say they want more information, but don’t have the time/energy to find out.
VIC & TAS
Victorian and Tasmanian parents are the least likely (with NSW) to know that children should be having five serves of vegetables and legumes a day and that there are five different food groups. They are the most confident parents (82 per cent are confident) on the balance of food groups, including the size of portions that should go on their child’s dinner plate or in their lunchbox.
SA & NT
Most parents (56 per cent) in South Australia and the Northern Territory think children can have as much fruit as they like and 46 per cent feel like they have enough information to teach their children how to eat a healthy balanced diet.
WA Parents in Western Australia are the most likely to be giving their children too little protein on their child’s dinner plate and the most likely (with SA/NT) to rely on parents and friends for advice about nutrition for their children. They are the most likely (95 per cent) to say that it is extremely important or very important for their children to learn about nutrition at school.
PROFESSOR JENNIFER O’DEA, UNIVERSITY OF SYDNEY
Professor Jenny O’Dea is a nutritionist and health educator with a special interest in child and adolescent health and nutrition. She is involved in body image research and the prevention of eating disorders and childhood obesity. She is the author of Positive Food for Kids, published by Random House in 2005, and is an Honorary Professor in Health Education and Nutrition Education at the University of Sydney.
ABOUT NESTLÉ HEALTHY ACTIVE KIDS - www.healthyactivekids.com.au
The Nestlé Healthy Active Kids program was developed by Nestlé Australia in partnership with the Australian Institute of Sport. The online program, www.healthyactivekids.com.au, contains over 80 free lesson plans written by Australian teachers and is tailored to State and Territory curriculums for Health and Physical Education. Further, there are videos of Australian athletes, games for parents to play at home and competitions for teachers to win resources for their schools. No Nestlé products are promoted in any Nestlé Healthy Active Kids resources.