Kids more clued up on five-a-day than parents, survey

By Jess Halliday

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Nutrition Uk

A new survey commissioned by the UK's Department of Health found
that three in five parents believe their children know more about
the need to eat five portions of fruit and veg a day than they do.

The UK's five-a-day campaign began in 2002, and is part of the Healthy Lives cross governmental strategy. Including a varied fruit and vegetables in the diet has been shown to help reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke, some cancers, and other major lifestyle illnesses. While there have been considerable efforts to curb advertising of foods containing high levels of fat, sugar and salt to children, the findings of the survey, which involved 1000 parents in the UK, suggest scope for marketing more healthy products directly to children, rather than just their parents. They are also testament to the success of campaigns to improve children's nutrition. For instance, celebrity chef Jamie Oliver conducted a high profile campaign to improve the quality of school meals. The result seems to be that children are learning about nutrition at school, and taking the message home to their parents. The parents showed a lack of awareness about what can be counted in the five-a-day tally. For instance, while almost 80 per cent realised that frozen fruit and veg counts just as well as fresh, 40 per cent did not rank canned fruit and veg. On the other hand, one in five parents said they did not have time to think about fruit and vegetables at meal times, but find it easier to serve up convenience meals. "The good news is that fruit and vegetables contained in convenience foods like ready meals, pasta sauces, soups and puddings, do also contribute to your five-a-day,"​ said the campaign website in its comments on the survey findings. It added the caveat, however, that these products may also be high in salt, sugar and fat, so consumers should check the nutritional information on packs. Other findings from the survey included that half of respondents did not realise that cooked food containing vegetables can count towards the target; and while there was widespread awareness that chips do not count, one in three parents wrongly thought that baked potatoes count as vegetables. There was also considerable confusion about what actually counts as a portion of fruit or vegetables (about 80g), with the result that some children had managed to 'trick' their parents into believing they had eaten two portions, when really they had only eaten two slices of cucumber or tomato. Almost all parents (96 per cent) were aware that dietary supplements like vitamins and minerals do not count towards the five-a-day, since they don't contain the full complement of nutrients.

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