Children living in regional and remote areas face unique challenges when it comes to eating the recommended amount of vegetables, new research has found.
An Edith Cowan University-led study has found that children in regional and remote Western Australia need a major boost of vegetables in their diets.
The study, involving children aged nine to 13 years and their caregivers from across the state, shows only 13.4 per cent of kids get sufficient vegetables in their daily diets.
While many might point to picky eating and a lack of cooking skills, only 11.8 per cent of caregivers indicated their children didn’t like the taste of vegetables.
A majority also reported knowing how to incorporate vegetables into meals.
Nutrition lecturer and lead author Stephanie Godrich , from the School of Medical and Health Sciences, said other factors were clearly at play.
‘‘Over half of the respondents indicated they would eat healthier food if their food outlets stocked healthier options,’’ Dr Godrich said.
‘‘And one-third pointed to food quality as being sub-optimal.
‘‘This includes vegetables not being fresh in their local shops or spoiling soon after getting home.’’
Price was also an issue, with 79.1 per cent believing food was more expensive for them than in other communities.
Dr Godrich suggested future messaging might need to remind families they have options beyond the fresh produce section.
‘‘Frozen and no added salt tinned offerings provide more opportunities for children to consume adequate quantities of vegetables, at a more affordable cost and with fewer quality issues than fresh vegetables.
‘‘These are convenient, and they are usually more readily available when their fresh counterparts are out of season.
‘‘However, improvements to regional and remote food supply are crucial,’’ she said.
‘‘Town planning that facilitates multiple options for families to purchase vegetables and greater support for regional-level food supply could be useful strategies’’
Intake of vegetables is particularly important for children, with the vitamins, minerals and fibre shown to help prevent future chronic diseases and moderate weight.
The Australian Dietary Guidelines (2013) stipulate that children aged nine to 11 and girls aged 12 to 13 should have five serves of vegetables a day, with boys aged 12 to 13 needing five-and-a-half serves.
The study, ‘Which food security determinants predict adequate vegetable consumption among rural Western Australian children?’, was published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health.