Recent study highlights need for healthier children’s lunchboxes

A new study from the University of Adelaide, Australia has found that children aged 9 – 10 are receiving almost half of their daily energy requirements from junk food.

They evaluated the core food intake of more than 430 children. The results showed that 45% of the children’s daily energy intake was sourced from discretionary foods 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 from the University of Adelaide’s School of Public Health and the Robinson Research Institute.

“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.”

The study uncovered a number of issues, such as:

  • Boys and girls consumed an average of 156 grammes and 161 grammes of total sugar per day respectively;
  • 91% of children had fewer than the recommended daily servings of vegetables;
  • 99.8% of children had fewer than the recommended daily servings of non-processed meat or protein alternatives (such as eggs, nuts, beans, chickpeas or lentils);
  • 83% of boys and 78% of girls consumed more than the recommended daily intake of salt;
  • Fiber intake was inadequate in 41% of boys and 24% of girls;
  • Dairy intake was inadequate in 83% of girls.

“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.

Dr Whitrow also said socioeconomic 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 9 and 10-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.”

Source: Science Daily

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