Why kids need fruit and veg

A new survey shows just five per cent of children are eating the recommended daily amount of both fruit and vegetables.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics National Health Survey 2014-15 found 68 per cent of children from 2–18 years old were eating enough fruit, but just 5.4 per cent were eating enough vegetables.

Only 5.1 per cent of those surveyed were eating the recommended amount of both fruit and vegetables.

One quarter of Australian children between 5-17 years old are overweight or obese, in adults it’s two in three.

Bupa Dietitian Gemma Cosgriff says getting habits right early on in life helps to set kids up for success into the future, and should in turn help improve their health outcomes when they become adults.

“Fruit and vegetables are pretty low in energy compared to so many processed options we go for first, and we will almost definitely eat less added sugar, fat, salt and unnatural additives which is definitely a plus,” says Cosgriff.

Under the Australian Dietary Guidelines it is recommended children between 9-18 years old eat two serves of fruit every day, and at least five serves of vegetables.

The survey found girls were more likely to eat the recommended amount of fruit, but the proportion of children eating the recommended serves of vegetables a day was similarly low in both boys and girls.

On average, the survey found children were eating two serves of fruit and close to two serves of vegetables a day.

colourful fruit and vegetables

Cosgriff says it’s important for kids and adults to regularly consume fruit and vegetables as they provide an important range of nutrients that help the body to grow and function optimally.

But she admits eating five serves of vegetables every day can be hard if we’re not in the habit of basing every meal around vegies, which she recommends.

“There are a lot of packaged and processed foods replacing our fruit and vegetable intake,” says Cosgriff. “If we switch it around, we’ll probably find that we are consuming a more diverse range of nutrients.”

“This might mean better general health, reduced fatigue levels, increased concentration, more sustained energy through the day, improved dental health and improved sleep,” she says.

Cosgriff says it’s important to involve the kids in choosing and preparing fruit and vegetables to help make them more appealing.

“Fruit and veggies don’t need to be boring, make it interesting by changing up the preparation of the foods, and add herbs and spices for extra taste and variety,” says Cosgriff.

 “Aim for the rainbow, the more diverse the colours of fruit and vegetables you consume, the more diverse the nutrients.”

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