Kids Dish on Healthy Eating

By / Magazine / October 1st, 2010 / 1

New research released today from the Registered Dietitians at Dairy Farmers of Canada shows kids have strong opinions and advice for both parents and teachers about healthy eating. The findings are based on one of the largest surveys of children’s attitudes and opinions toward healthy eating ever conducted in Ontario. This survey adopted a novel and unique approach of directly asking children their advice on how their parents and teachers can help them learn more about healthy eating and what these adults can really do to help children develop healthy eating habits.

Overall, the research shows pre-teens are in fact concerned about nutrition and healthy eating, and not just interested in greasy take-out food and sugary treats. Another encouraging finding is that pre-teens actually care about what their parents do and say when it comes to healthy eating; they are still interested in guidance and support from their parents. “This new research sends a powerful message and call to action from kids that the combined influence of parents, teachers and schools gives them the best chance to succeed in practicing healthy eating,” said Heidi Boyd, Registered Dietitian with Dairy Farmers of Canada. “The advice from kids is clear and now it’s up to parents and teachers to respond.”

Here are the highlights:

• 89 per cent of kids agree their parents are their most important role models for healthy eating.
• 82 per cent of kids want to learn how to cook in school.
• 80 per cent of kids want to know about the benefits of healthy eating and not just what they should not be eating.
• Three out of four children agree that if their parents had healthy food in the house, they would eat it.
• 71 per cent of children describe their eating habits as “sort of healthy”, while 21 per cent describe their eating habits as “very healthy”. Only eight per cent say their eating habits are “not very healthy”.

“I think it’s interesting that the majority of kids surveyed think their eating habits are good; however, we know from the Statistics Canada Report entitled Overview of Canadians’ Eating Habits 2004 based on the 2004 Canadian Community Health Survey that boys and girls age 10 to 16 are definitely lacking in both fruit and vegetables and milk and milk products,” says Boyd. “These kids still need help and advice from parents and teachers when it comes to healthy eating and they want it.”

When presented with the research findings, Dr. Judy Sheeshka, PhD, RD, Family Relations and Applied Nutrition, University of Guelph, said that what she found most interesting was that children place the most trust in their parents and teachers and really want their help with healthy eating.

“I see role-modeling as being the key – parents need to model healthy eating and the teachers need to ensure they are not giving “mixed-messages” by teaching healthy eating and then modelling poor habits,” says Sheeshka. “It is important for adults to realize – kids are watching!”

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