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Fast facts about kids' nutrition and health

  • How many children lack healthy diets?
  • What if children don’t eat well?
  • How do children overeat?

How many children lack healthy diets?

The Australian National Children’s Nutrition and Physical Activity Survey shows

  • almost 3 children in every 5 don’t eat enough fruit
  • less than 1 child in 5 eats enough vegetable
  • more than half of children aged between 9 and 13 fall short on their dietary calcium intake
  • all children consume far too much sodium salt
  • 4 in every 5 children eat too much saturated fat, and
  • close to 20% of children aged between 6 and 11 consume more kilojoules (calories) than they probably need.

What if children don’t eat well?

Poorly balanced eating can make children sluggish or tired, moody or irritable, constipated or bloated. It will affect their school work and ability to concentrate.

In the medium term, poorly balanced eating is associated with serious health concerns such as bone growth problems, dental decay, anaemia, and lung and breathing conditions. Some children even develop high blood cholesterol, a serious marker for risk of heart disease.

The number of children who are overweight or obese has sky rocketed from just 1 in every 10 in the 1970s, to almost 1 in every 4 Australian children today.

  • 6% of children aged between 4 and 13 are obese
  • an extra 17% are overweight
  • about 1 child in every 6 shows a tendency to excess abdominal fat, with a waist measure that is bigger than expected for their height
  • being overweight persists into teenage years, and
  • 1 in every 4 Australian teenagers carries excess weight.

Overweight children may also suffer heat intolerance, puffing and shortness of breath, reduced physical coordination, pain and reduced mobility due to slipped growth plates (bones), poor oxygen supply to the body due to snoring and breath-holding during sleep (apnoea), tiredness, social isolation without friends, targets for school yard and ‘cyber’ bullies, fatty liver, and increased risk of early ‘adult’ diabetes and heart disease.

All of these serious conditions are affected by what children do and don’t eat, and how much they eat – their serve size.

How do children overeat?

  • Study results published in 2007 in the journal Obesity, revealed that portion size has a dramatic impact on a child’s intake. Children eat almost one-third more food when they are served double portions. They also take bigger bites when offered bigger portions.
  • The average dinner plate has grown by more than 36% since 1960. Parents may be mis-serving without realising it.
  • The 2007 Australian National Children’s Nutrition and Physical Activity Survey: Main Findings showed that close to 20% of children aged between 6 and 11 consume more kilojoules (calories) than they probably need. That means they are over-eating.