Are Australian children relying on dietary supplements to complete their nutritional intake? That’s just one of the questions raised by a new report out today which reveals insights into the state of the nation’s lunchboxes as well as parental concerns around healthy food options and peer pressure.
Are children relying on dietary supplements?
The John West Healthy Lunchbox Report is based on feedback from 1,000 mums1 across the country and reveals a significant trend. Over a quarter (26%) of Australian children are taking pills or supplements to complete their nutritional intake.
Of those children almost half (49%) take omega-3 dietary supplements. This is concerning some nutritionists such as Shane Bilsborough: “The fact that kids are taking dietary supplements proves that nutrition is important to mums and it’s great that they are being proactive in ensuring their children are getting all their nutrients. It’s also encouraging to see that parents are taking steps to ensure their children are getting enough omega-3 – it’s great for kids concentration and brain function – but supplements are not the only solution.”
“A healthy balanced diet should provide kids with all the vitamins and nutrients they need. Unlike supplements whole foods also satisfy hunger and provide kids with vital energy. Supplements may also
mask underlying dietary deficiencies that unless addressed can travel through to adulthood,” he said.
Professor Andrew Sinclair, omega-3 specialist at Deakin University comments, “The benefits of eating whole foods such as fish to obtain omega-3 fatty acids can significantly outweigh the benefits of consuming a supplement. Whole foods, such as fish, provide high quality protein, vitamins and minerals your body needs for good health, not just the one nutrient. Omega-3 supplements can also be quite costly compared with foods sources such as canned fish.”
Percentage of children aged 5 -10 taking dietary supplements:
- Western Australia 31%
- NSW / ACT 28%
- Northern Territories 27%
- Queensland 24%
- South Australia 21%
- Victoria 21%
- Tasmania 8%
Mums feel the pressure
Three quarters (76%) of mums admit that they find it difficult to come up with new ideas for their child’s
lunchbox and almost two thirds (63%) find it difficult to pack a healthy lunchbox for them. Perceived cost is also a barrier – almost half (42%) of Australian mums find it too expensive to buy healthy food.
Mums acknowledge the importance of balance; the report reveals that 51% want to include a mix of healthy options and treats in their child’s lunchbox. Given the mixed messages and number of considerations they need to weigh up mums are understandably feeling the pressure. Some mums are giving themselves an unnecessarily hard time – over a third (35%) are dissatisfied with how healthy their child’s lunchbox actually is.
Sue Scott, Senior Brand Manager for JohnWest Kids, empathises with their situation: “Parents face a real challenge every day to find healthy and inspired food for their child’s lunchbox. The results reveal just how much pressure mums are under. We understand this which is why the new John West Kids product offers parents a healthy option that involves no preparation and is easy for kids to enjoy.”
With 60%2 of Australian mums working full or part time perhaps it’s not surprising that over a quarter (28%) of those surveyed feel they do not have enough time to plan and prepare healthy lunchbox options for their children.
“As well as time pressures, we know that parents have concerns around how healthy some products really are. Each tub of JohnWest Kids tuna contains a day’s worth of omega-3 for children aged 13 and under. This combined with kid approved flavours and all natural ingredients has been wholly welcomed by Mums”, said Sue Scott.
Negotiation is key
The John West Healthy Lunchbox Report reveals that children as young as five are demanding certain foods, with over a quarter (26%) of mums claiming their children experience peer pressure to have certain foods in their lunchbox.
A reassuring finding from the report shows that parents recognise the need to involve kids in their food choices. This is reflected by the 77% of kids who do ask for certain foods in their lunchbox. Shane Bilsborough is encouraged by this, “If children are involved in food choices from an early age it gives
parents the opportunity to discuss good nutrition and introduce them to different foods.”
Another significant challenge cited by almost half (47%) of mums for not packing a nutritious lunchbox is that their children will not eat healthy food or simply don’t like the taste of healthy options. WA has the
fussiest eaters with 53% of mums claiming their child simply won’t eat healthy options. Mums in NSW are the most confounded with a quarter (25%) admitting to having given up arguing with their child over healthy food.
To ease the battle of packing a balanced lunchbox that kids will enjoy, some foods are more equipped than others. These are considered super-foods. Super-foods have naturally higher levels of beneficial nutrients, yet the majority of mums (66%) are not clear on what they are.
“Many super-foods are both practical to include in everyday diets and easy to find in local supermarkets. Fish, in particular oily fish, are the number one super-food for children. Tuna is accessible and serves as the perfect platform to launch a child’s super-food lunch box,” said Shane Bilsborough.
Confusion around omega-3
Omega-3 is clearly high on the agenda for parents but the John West Kids Healthy Lunchbox Report highlights a significant lack of understanding around the levels required and the best way to achieve them. Despite three quarters (78%) of mums claiming that omega-3 is important in their child’s diet only a fifth (21%) are sure whether their child actually receives a daily serve of omega-3.
Shane Bilsborough, continues, “Omega-3 DHA is essential for brain development and function. There is also scientific evidence to show that omega-3s may play a supportive role in behaviour, learning and concentration in children.” Each tub of the new John West Kids product provides children under 13 with
100% of their daily intake of omega-3.
Sue Scott from JohnWest continues, “With the JohnWest Kids range we aim to help parents by providing nutritious product’s kids will enjoy. It’s simple – there’s a day’s worth of omega-3 in every tub so parents can have complete peace of mind.”
John West Kids is available from leading supermarkets from January 2009 at an RRP of $3.29 for a twin pack.
For more information about John West products, nutrition and recipes visit the website www.johnwest.com.au