Children’s diets are poor regardless of demographics, a new study has found
May 03, 2016 | News | by The Learning Press staff
New research from the University of Adelaide shows Australian children are getting almost half of their daily energy from junk food.
The study evaluated the core food intake of more than 430 South Australian children aged nine and ten.
The results - published in the Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics this week - showed that 45% of the children's daily energy intake was sourced from “discretionary” foods which are high in fat, salt and sugar.
"We found that children obtained over half of their daily energy from carbohydrates and about one-third of their energy from fats, half of which was saturated fat," said lead author Dr Melissa Whitrow.
"We know that an unhealthy diet is a key contributor to obesity and also paves the way for other health problems in later life, such as poor cardiovascular health.
“The establishment and maintenance of healthy eating habits during the transition from childhood to adolescence is also very important."
Among the finding were:
"At this stage in their lives, girls need to eat more dairy as they head towards puberty, as this is important for their bone density," Dr Whitrow said.
"Variety of food is also an issue.
“Red meat tended to be the dominant meat, whereas fish should be consumed in a healthy diet at least weekly. It's important for families to understand that processed meat is a discretionary food, not a core food, and is often high in salt and fat."
She says socio-economic status made little difference to the dietary problems highlighted in the study.
"Based on the results of our study, there is much to be done to encourage nine to ten year-old children and their families to make healthier food choices.
“For example, substituting at least one high-fat, high-sugar or high-salt food item with a healthier food choice in the school lunchbox each day might make a difference.
"This isn't about blaming the parents. As a community we need to help parents more. We need to look at what's being advertised to their children, and how we can encourage children to try different foods. Providing healthy alternatives into a lunchbox and more vegetables at the dinner table would be a good start."
This study has been conducted in collaboration with the University of Newcastle, and was funded by the National Health and Medical Research Council and the Australian Research Council.