Aussie parents are struggling with their children’s lunch boxes as an abundance of conflicting information is leading to ‘‘nutritional anxiety’’.
New research released last week suggests confusing dietary information is to blame with more than one in 10 Victorian parents admitting they are baffled by conflicting recommendations around what they should and should not feed their kids.
Findings from a Capilano Honeys Family Nutrition Report showed more than a third of parents resorted to following their gut instinct when it came to what was and was not healthy.
The report also revealed that busy lifestyles were a key contributor to mealtime stress, with nearly one in five saying they would like to feed their family healthier meals, but lack of time prevents them from doing so.
The report also indicated that ‘‘lunch box shamers’’ made preparing packed lunches a minefield for parents.
Nearly one-fifth of respondents indicated that a teacher or fellow parent had made them feel guilty about the food they had packed for their child.
Compounding this nutritional nightmare is the fussy eater with half of parents admitting that their child would not eat healthy food.
Almost all parents surveyed admitted to giving their kids food that was not good for them, just so they would eat it.
Many parents simply do not know what the daily recommended amounts of the key food groups for kids are.
More than half of survey participants did not know how many serves of vegetables a four to eight year old should be eating, and three quarters were stumped for ages nine to 11.
Nearly a quarter of Victorian parents incorrectly identified fruit as a low, or no sugar options, thought low-fat foods had low or no sugar and believed they were making a healthier choice.
Benalla Health dietician Kathryn McQualter said it could be confusing, however, one important thing to bear in mind is that kids needed food from all of the five food groups.
●Dairy (or foods high in calcium)
●Grains and cereals
●Lean meat, poultry, fish, eggs or legumes.
‘‘Older children will need more grains and cereals for energy,’’ Ms McQualter said.
‘‘The Healthy Eating Advisory Service website has some great links to resources that can help parents plan lunches.
‘‘The Healthy Kids Association, Nutrition Australia and Better Health Channel also have great ideas.
‘‘Some easy-to-prepare, nutritional lunches can include leftover roast vegetables on pita bread, or finger foods like cherry tomatoes, cube cheese, cucumber, noodle salad, corn cobs, or vegie quiche.’’
Food-related stress and lunch box shaming can also be partly to blame for nutritional anxiety, with parents often overwhelmed by conflicting information on what they should be feeding their kids.
Some parents might also be shocked to learn that foods they perceive to be healthier options, such as low-fat yoghurt or milk and pre-packaged meals, are actually not necessarily considered healthy or nutritious.
On the subject of fussy-eaters Ms Quilter said the answer was to keep trying.
‘‘It can take 10 to 20 tries for a child to accept new food,’’ Ms Quilter said.
‘‘Try to make food fun. Get the kids out in the garden and in the kitchen. It’s a great way to learn about healthy food.
‘‘It’s also important for parents to set a good example and have healthy foods readily available in the house.
‘‘If you’re having trouble getting your kids to eat different foods there are Dietitians at Benalla Health that can help you.’’
●To help you navigate the minefield of conflicting information a good place to go for advice on nutrition is www.eatforhealth.gov.au or phone Benalla Health on 57614222.