Kids falling short on 5-a-day

British children are falling woefully short of the government’s five-a-day targets on fruit and vegetables, according to new research, with parents failing to encourage good eating habits and often unaware of what constitutes a healthy diet.

An independent research study has found that only one in five children is meeting the government’s target, with parents often unaware of which foods count under the five-a-day guidelines.

The nationwide representative survey of 1,103 parents with children aged 0-14 found that many parents incorrectly believe that some treat foods, which contain no fruit or vegetables, can contribute towards their children’s five-a-day tally.

The survey – conducted by OnePoll on behalf of Green Giant – also reveals that around 5% of children are eating no fruit and veg at all and that three out of five are eating just three portions a day or less.

According to the government’s Food Standards Agency there is “mounting evidence” that five-a-day is the target to avoid developing chronic diseases such as coronary heart disease and some cancers.

However, the new OnePoll survey found that many children are facing a struggle to meet government targets with as many as one in five parents incorrectly believing that fruit-flavoured sweets, spaghetti hoops and orange squash are covered by the five-a-day scheme. The survey also found that as many as one in 10 parents thinks cola, chips and jaffa cakes can contribute.

By contrast, around one in 20 failed to identify common fruits such as oranges and bananas as counting.

Alarmingly, more than one out of 10 parents doesn’t think it’s their job to teach their kids about healthy eating, instead believing that role is best performed by grandparents, teachers, GPs and even celebrity chefs like Jamie Oliver.

And parents claim the biggest barriers to getting children to eat more fruit and vegetables are that their kids don’t like them, there’s too much wastage and because they don’t have the time and cooking skills to prepare healthy meals from scratch.

The survey found that packed lunches fare a little better with seven out of 10 containing fruit.

General Mills nutritionist (registered dietician) Vanessa McConkey RNutri says: “It is both disappointing and concerning to see that the five a day message isn’t getting through clearly enough to parents.

“Good eating habits start at home and British parents need to get their children into the habit of eating more vegetables and fruit. There are many easy ways for parents to get to five-a-day without loads of cooking and preparation. Choosing vegetables like canned sweet corn can make it much easier to get one of your recommended five a day, as well as ensuring that each meal time includes a portion of vegetables or fruit.” Indeed, the survey also shows that most kids have favourite vegetables with carrots, sweet corn, peas and broccoli all scoring highly.

The survey was conducted by OnePoll between 19 August 2008 and 22 August 2008 amongst a sample of 1,103 parents with children aged 0-14.

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