Eating well is a key ingredient for children’s health and wellbeing. Good nutrition in childhood supports healthy growth and development, giving young minds and bodies the fuel they need to grow, learn, play and thrive.
However, the figures show there is room for improvement on children’s plates.
Queensland kids are generally eating too many unhealthy foods and not enough greens. Less than 5% of children eat the recommended daily serves of vegetables1, while getting, on average, 13% of their daily energy from added sugars – exceeding the globally recommended 10% limit2.
In the Sunshine State, 25% of children are living with overweight or obesity3. With about 80% of obesity in adolescence tracking into adulthood, setting kids up with lifelong healthy habits is critical4.
That’s why Health and Wellbeing Queensland has a range of programs aimed at helping kids eat a better diet and supporting good nutrition and wellbeing early on.
Healthy eating in the classroom
Pick of the Crop was set up as a HWQld signature nutrition program to tackle low vegetable intake among children and plant the seeds for long-term healthy eating habits.
This program gives Queensland primary school students the opportunity to learn about, grow and eat more vegetables and fruit, while supporting farming communities. With the support of a regional coordinator, schools roll out activities promoting fresh produce across the school community, such as school gardens, classroom lessons and veggie and fruit-focused events.
The 2021 pilot was rolled out in 35 schools in Logan, Bundaberg and Bowen. It was expanded this year to be open to 100 eligible schools, with close to 60 Queensland schools on board by mid-2022.
An evaluation of the pilot showed promising results, with schools surveyed agreeing students had increased knowledge of and improved attitudes towards eating vegetables and fruit.
Healthy eating on the sports field
An initiative that nudges Queenslanders towards buying healthier food and drinks will be expanded to sports clubs to promote healthy habits among young players.
A Better Choice encourages healthier food and drink choices in food service settings using a strategy that puts healthier options front and centre. For example, water, milk, and 100% fruit juice are promoted and offered more readily than sugary soft drinks and sports drinks.
Currently, HWQld is supporting food service outlets in healthcare settings to implement this strategy and provide healthier options. Plans are under way to expand into sports settings in 2023, with the popularity of junior sport, and attending stadiums for a game, a prime opportunity to promote healthy options.
The goal is to make the healthy choice the easy choice, putting little athletes on track for a healthy future.
Healthy eating when dining out
Dining out with kids doesn’t have to mean chicken nuggets and chips. Another HWQld initiative is helping put healthy options on the menu for youngsters at local food venues.
HWQld has supported venues to improve children’s menus in Queensland restaurants and cafes, following the launch of its Healthy Kids Menu initiative in June 2021.
Cafes, restaurants, hotels and pubs are empowered to offer tasty, healthier options for kids with easy-to-use guidelines and supporting resources, developed in consultation with industry.
Given how many meals are eaten outside of the home, helping families make healthier choices when dining out has become increasingly important. Creating a children’s menu that is nutritious and delicious is good for business and children’s health.
Healthy eating in the home
HWQld is developing an innovative online program to make healthy habits fun for Queensland families. This free, play-centric web and app-based wellbeing program supports kids and families as they build better lifestyle habits together, using animations to bring healthy eating, movement and sleep tips to life. The program will launch later in 2022. To find out more on this and other programs, register for email updates.
Nutrition topics covered in the first release of the program will include the importance of healthy eating; balancing ‘everyday’ and ‘sometimes’ foods; drinking enough water; and trying new foods.
These topics are explored in multiple ways, over a period of time, to support behavioural change. It includes a mix of virtual activities (think fun quizzes) and real world activities (aka ‘quests’) to keep things interesting. From animations and in-app games to podcast series for parents and carers, this program has all the ingredients for healthy eating at home.