New research from the University of Otago reveals on average, 12-year-old children consume unhealthy snacks five times a day, a direct opposite to the recommended same number of healthy fruit and vegetables Charitable Trust, 5+ A Day recommends.
Unhealthy snacks.
According to the research, the average child snacked on confectionery, salty snacks, cookies, cakes and sugary drinks at least once a day.
Healthier snacks, such as fruit, were consumed occasionally, although for every healthy snack consumed, children ate 2.5 unhealthy snacks.
Lead researcher Ryan Gage, of the University of Otago, Wellington, says current guidelines recommend that children consume snacks low in fat, sugar and salt.
Our research shows that most snacking episodes involve unhealthy items, and that healthier options like fruit, vegetables, nuts and milk are being consumed less frequently.
The research was funded by the Cancer Society of New Zealand, and published in the journal Nutrients.
Unhealthy snacks contribute to obesity and increased risk of some cancers. New Zealand currently has the second highest rate of childhood obesity among OECD member countries.
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One in 10 New Zealand children are obese, and a further one in five are overweight.
The research is further analysis of the innovative KidsCam research, where children wore automated cameras.
A selection of 168 children between the ages of 11 and 13 from 16 schools in the Wellington region of New Zealand took part in the study. Children wore the cameras over a four-day period, which recorded photographs every seven seconds.
The research found that children consumed more unhealthy snacks than healthy snacks in all settings, including 15x more unhealthy snacks in public spaces and 2.4x more unhealthy snacks in schools.
Co-author Professor Louise Signal, of the University of Otago, Wellington, says the findings build on previous research outlining the unhealthy nature of childrens food environments.
Children live in an obesogenic environment, one which encourages unhealthy eating.
Previous research shows that children are exposed to 27 junk food ads a day, and that most schools in New Zealand do not have healthy school food policies, she says.
The authors of the study are calling for urgent action to reduce obesogenic food environments in New Zealand.
It comes as Charitable Trust, 5+ A Day, which promotes the eating of five or more servings of fruit and vegetables a day, announced that 561 of New Zealands lowest decile schools are now being supplied with healthy food options as the school year kicks off.
Now in its sixteenth year, the fresh produce supplied to children nationwide by the Fruit and Vegetables in Schools (FIS) initiative is a lifeline for those struggling to put food on the table, the Trust said in a press release today.
The impact of Covid-19 means this year will be the largest on record for FIS with a total of over 26 million servings of fresh fruit and vegetables provided to 124,888 tamariki and staff in some of our most vulnerable communities, the statement said.
FIS is funded by the Ministry of Health, managed by United Fresh and supported by 5+ A Day.
The initiative sees each child and staff member given one piece of fresh seasonal produce to eat with their classmates daily, providing essential nutritional goodness as well as the opportunity to try over two dozen varieties of fruit and vegetables during the school year.