Australian children’s vegetable intake is below recommended levels and increasing consumption remains a strong focus for health, nutrition and obesity prevention initiatives. Increasing vegetable consumption is an example of clear synergy between commercial and public health interests.
Low vegetable consumption affects all age groups
Despite the efforts of researchers, the vegetable industry and public health policy makers, vegetable consumption is below recommended intake across the whole population, for adults and children alike.
What the evidence tell us
Results from the most recent Australian National Nutrition and Physical Activity Survey, conducted as part of the 2011-13 Australian Health Survey, revealed that 67 per cent of children aged two to 18 years ate vegetables on the day of the Survey.
On average, children ate 102 grams of vegetable products and dishes, which includes vegetables as well as dishes where vegetables were the major component, such as potato bake and vegetable stir fry. Vegetable consumption in children increased stepwise by age group, from 67 grams in two to three-year-olds through to 123 grams for 14 to 18-year-olds.
However, because the recommendations in the Australian Dietary Guidelines differ by age group, children aged two to three years were actually more likely to meet the recommended intake target for vegetables (49 per cent) compared to older children (10 per cent or less).
Why change is important
Establishing good eating behaviours in the younger years is essential as it forms the basis for eating behaviours and relationships with food into adulthood. Despite the range of initiatives and programs which aim to improve children’s diet quality, few are effective in substantially increasing vegetable consumption, so intake remains below the recommended level for good health and wellbeing.
A major component of the VegKIT project is to update the best practice guidelines with the latest scientific literature (published since 2014) and translate these into strategies for implementation by different stakeholders.