Food safety and hygiene experts say the next generation of Australian diners may find it hard to follow a strict diet but may be able to indulge in an indulgent meal.
A survey of 1,000 adults and 2,000 children aged four to 17 conducted by the University of Queensland found more than half of the adults who responded said they would eat at least one dessert in a meal and about a third said they might eat more than one.
The study, which surveyed 2,400 adults in Australia, was carried out by Ipsos Media Group between November and December.
“It’s not a simple choice to make between eating sweets and sweets foods but the vast majority of the people surveyed say they might choose sweets and desserts over other meals,” Ipsos principal researcher Dr Julie Keesmaat said.
Ms KeesMAat said many parents were worried about children not following a strict eating plan. “
People who say they are looking for a more indulgent way to eat and they want to have something that isn’t sugar and carbs, that’s the choice.”
Ms KeesMAat said many parents were worried about children not following a strict eating plan.
“Many parents will say that it’s hard to be strict about what they eat,” she said.
But, she said, there was a lot more food out there than many parents realise.
“I think that parents need to make sure they understand that a lot of kids who are eating these kinds of foods have a diet that is quite restrictive,” she told ABC News Breakfast.
“And there are a lot different flavours that kids eat that they might want to avoid, so it’s important that parents do their homework and make sure that they understand what the foods are, what they are putting in their diet.”
The survey also found more people were worried they might not eat enough fruit and vegetables and that their kids might eat too much fruit and sweets.
But the majority of those who answered were satisfied with their diet.
“A lot of children don’t want to get into dessert but they do want a different way of eating and we know from the research that people like to eat sweets and sweet treats and they don’t like eating too much carbohydrates,” Ms Kuesaat said, adding that children could also be tempted to eat too many fruit and veg in a short time.
“There’s been research that shows kids can eat a lot but we also know that they need to be aware that eating sweets can make them overeat and we think there are plenty of ways to get that balance right,” she added.
Ms Kewsmaat hopes the research will lead to better advice for parents, parents groups and school nutritionists.
The Australian Institute of Sport and Physical Education (AISPE) has also issued advice on how to make the most of the food they have at home.
The institute’s Dr Tim Brown said children’s interests were inextricably linked to their diet, with many looking for something different to their usual dinner.
“We know that kids have an incredible appetite and they crave something different and they are keen to try new things,” Dr Brown said.
He said it was important parents were aware of the foods kids were looking for and be aware of what they might be eating.
“Parents and school-age children should be able, at the very least, to pick up a little bit of what’s in front of them and put it in their mouth so they don`t have to think about it,” he said.
The University of Melbourne food safety officer Dr Sarah Tulloch said the latest study was important because it showed children are eating what they like.
“In terms of food safety, this is the best that we have seen so far,” she explained.
“They are looking at what they can eat and that will tell us what to do with that, so they can get on with their lives.”
Dr Tulloche said she would encourage parents to try and get their children to eat more fruit and veggies and to limit their sugar intake.
“This is good for kids to learn how to get through their lunch break,” she advised.
“You can have a fruit and vegetable, you can have an apple, a banana, a cucumber, a pear or a pear and an orange or a lemon.”