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Upto 40% of primary school children’s lunchboxes do not contain any fruit or vegetables, according to the School Food Trust. BBC health highlighted on the 2nd of Oct 2011.

Should we be concerned or do anything?

The most recent National diet and nutrition survey 2011 demonstrates.

  • Fruit and veg consumption in children aged 11-18 years, they eat on average 2.9portions per day.
  • This means only 10% of children in this age group achieve the 5-a-day target. This means 9 out of 10 children are not getting enough fruit and veg.

If we look at adults intake from the same survey.

  • Adults aged 19-64 are getting 4.2 portions/day (30% of this group achieve 5-a-day)
  • Those aged over 65 achieve 4.4 portions/day (37% of this group achieve 5-a-day)

A recent survey (Food Standards Agency-2011) of over 3,000 adults found that 82%  considered their overall diet to be healthy already.Healthy Nutrition

There has been recent work in the US to increase fruit and veg consumption.

Recent Work From The US

ScienceDaily (Aug. 8, 2011) — Preschool children consumed nearly twice as many vegetables and 11 percent fewer calories over the course of a day when researchers at Penn State added pureed vegetables to the children’s favorite foods.

 “Childhood obesity rates are on the rise, and at the same time children are not eating the recommended amount of vegetables,” said Barbara Rolls, holder of the Helen A. Guthrie Chair in Nutritional Sciences. “Vegetables have been shown to help lower calorie intake. The problem is getting kids to eat enough vegetables.”

In their study, the researchers served vegetable-enhanced entrées to 39 children between the ages of 3 and 6 on three separate days. They tested three familiar foods — zucchini bread for breakfast, pasta with a tomato-based sauce for lunch and chicken noodle casserole for dinner. The team modified the standard recipes for these foods by adding a variety of puréed vegetables to reduce the calories in the entrées by 15 percent and 25 percent.

“We incorporated several vegetables into the dishes, including broccoli, cauliflower, zucchini, tomatoes and squash,” said Maureen Spill, a post-doctoral fellow in nutritional sciences and the study’s lead author. “We were pleased to find that the children found the vegetable-enhanced versions to be equally acceptable to the standard recipes.”

According to Spill, the children ate the same weight of food regardless of the vegetable content of the entrées. And when they ate the vegetable-enhanced entrées as opposed to the standard-recipe entrées, their daily vegetable intake nearly doubled while their calorie intake decreased by 11 percent. The team’s findings are online July 25 in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Rolls and Penn State colleagues Alexandria Blatt, a recent Ph.D. recipient and Liane Roe, a researcher, both in nutritional sciences, found similar results when they served vegetable-enhanced entrées to adults. That work appeared in the April 2011 issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

“Regarding children, some people argue that hiding vegetables in foods is deceptive and that doing so suggests that whole vegetables are not acceptable,” said Rolls. “But I don’t agree. Parents modify recipes all the time. For example, it is well-accepted that apple sauce can be used to replace oil in cake batter.”

Spill noted that serving vegetables both within entrées and as side dishes is a great way to increase daily vegetable intake even more. “Preparing vegetable-enhanced entrées is a technique that should be used with other strategies, such as providing vegetables as snacks and side dishes. Together these strategies can substantially increase children’s vegetable intake while also teaching them to like vegetables.”

The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases funded this research. Other authors on the paper include Leann Birch, Distinguished Professor of human development and family studies, and Liane Roe, researcher in nutritional sciences.

My Comment. In Adding vegetables to other foods can encourage increased intake of these foods, but it does not help children to learn the taste of these foods. Encourage a combination of “hidden” (I’m not a proponent of this term) foods through mixed dishes. With cool weather on its way, think of soups and stews. It can take 8-10 exposures before a child likes a food.

Encourage children to grow their own vegetables and to help prepare fruit and veg  for meals can help them to eat more.

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Full Member of the British Dietetic Association Full Member of the British Dietetic Association Freelance Dietitians Specialist Group Trust a Dietitian To Know About Nutrition Registered Health Care Professional FSB Member