The British Nutrition Foundation’s (BNF) Healthy Eating week has been launched today. Thankfully, over 1.7 million children will be learning valuable lessons at nursery and school this week about where food comes from, how to store it safely, cooking and healthy eating.
Why am I pleased about this? Because research conducted by the British Nutrition Foundation, (that asked >13,000 school children across the UK all about food; where it comes from and which foods they eat) has just been released with some pretty worrying findings…….are you ready for this? (Summarised from the BNF report)
- 25% of 5-8 yr olds and 14 % of 8-11 yr olds surveyed think that bread comes from animals.
- 26% of 5-8 yr olds and 22% of 8-11 yr olds think that cheese comes from plants.
- Nearly 20% of primary school children said that potatoes come from animals.
- Almost 25% of primary school children and 13% of 8-11 yr olds, think that pasta comes from animals.
- 10% of primary school children surveyed think that bacon comes from sheep.
- 17% think that fish fingers come from chicken.
Dear oh dear oh dear. It might seem amusing at first but there is a very serious side to this and sadly I am not really surprised by these findings. We live in a society that relies heavily on processed, convenience foods, where a meal simply does not resemble the original form any more.
We’ve got used to ordering take-outs or regularly eating out, so our relationship with food in its raw state has been lost. We no longer cook the way we used to, the tradition of learning from our nanny or mum has disappeared, we don’t have the time or don’t make the time to cook and eat together.
How on earth can we expect our children to know where food comes from if we don’t show them? The responsibility of being a parent is to role-model; children learn by copying and I think we are already half way down that road where the oven becomes redundant.
Now don’t get me wrong, it’s not entirely the parents’ fault; schools have a huge responsibility too, but that's another blog.
Now it wasn’t all bad!
- Encouragingly, around 20% of older children (11-16 yr olds) want to know more about where their food comes from Yippee!
- Around 80% of 5-11 yr olds have grown food either at home or at school. Fantastic!
- On the whole, secondary school children’s knowledge about vitamins and minerals is encouraging with 74% accurately matching vitamin C with citrus fruit and 83% matching calcium with dairy products. Phew!
So what else did they report?
Five a Day
- ~86% of children between 5 and 16 yrs know that they should eat five or more portions of fruit and vegetables each day. This is great, BUT this knowledge doesn’t seem to translate into behaviour, with an average of only 30% of school children saying they actually ate that amount the day before the survey. Now the trouble with this surveys is that it’s a snapshot in time, not necessarily representative of the typical daily diet, but I imagine it’s not far off the mark.
- There is some confusion among children about which foods count towards their 5 a day. Around 20% of 14-16yr olds do not think that canned fruit and vegetables count; whereas in fact both frozen and canned types do count.
- The other issue is that >40% of the same children think that potatoes count towards their 5 a day, whereas in fact, they are grouped with other starchy foods in the UK’s eatwell guide, rather than with fruit and vegetables.
By eating more fruit and veg, we do automatically tend to eat less rubbish but kids don’t do the shopping, we do! If we want our kids to eat fruit and veg, we have to buy it. It doesn’t have to be the most expensive forms – tinned and frozen are absolutely fine! Get your kids involved in the shopping. Rather than do it all on line and get it delivered to your doorstep, take them with you and let them pick and choose one that they want! Let them feel it, smell it, eat it! Try things you haven’t had before. As a whole family you can experiment together!
- On the day of the 2014 survey, 7% of primary school children, 23% of 11-14 yr olds and 32% of 14-16 yr olds said they hadn’t eaten breakfast that morning!
- 47% of 11-14 year olds and 59% of 14-16 yr olds say that they skip meals!
Breakfast IS THE MOST IMPORTANT MEAL OF THE DAY for children so please make it a priority! Children who skip breakfast are more likely to be overweight, make unhealthier food choices and are less able to concentrate and focus (plus be in a bad mood!)
- Children seem to know they should be drinking regularly but again their knowledge doesn’t necessarily translate into action.
- 26% of primary school children and 48% of secondary school children know that they should drink between 6-8 cups each day and yet only half of these children actually said they consume that amount.
Don’t forget, water and milk are the best options for children. Limit fruit juice to meal times, just once a day and try to dilute it a little.
- Children as young as 5-8 years old understand the value of eating fish, with 96% saying we should all eat some fish each week.
- Similarly, 58% of secondary school children know we should eat two portions each week.
- However, 26% of secondary school children surveyed in Scotland claim never to eat fish. 23% of children of the same age in Wales, 20% of those in Northern Ireland and 19% of all secondary school children surveyed in England also say they never eat fish.
Lots of evidence supports the fact we should be eating more fish, particularly the oily varieties like salmon, mackerel, sardines and pilchards – unfortunately the fishy fish, which kids can often turn their noses up at. The healthy polyunsaturated fats in these types of fish are fantastic for brain development as well as reducing the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and raised cholesterol. Please limit the battered variety!
I think it was back in 2010 that I remember watching Jamie Oliver on a TV programme being horrified that kids did not know what a tomato looked like, what an aubergine was, or that potatoes grew in the ground. Naively I assumed we had moved on since then, now that food and healthy eating has become a slightly bigger part of the National Curriculum but alas we still seem to have quite a way to go.
So the results from this survey despite being worrying, could be very useful, providing we act on them. These results should help inform further policies and regulations to help improve the situation. This will not be easy and certainly won’t happen overnight.
If you think the same as me, or disagree with what I have written, please tell me in the comments box below! I would love to hear your thoughts too