If adults are well informed about healthy nutrition for children, more healthy and home-cooked foods will be on the table. Above all, fruit and vegetables are served more frequently than before, a team led by Hans-Peter Hutter from the Department of Environmental Hygiene and Environmental Medicine at MedUni Vienna discovered. The qualitative study partly took place during the corona lockdown and also shows that more time was spent on cooking and there was also a tendency to eat more.
It should be investigated how or whether by educating guardians “the mindfulness with regard to children’s health can be increased”, said Hutter at the presentation on Wednesday afternoon in Vienna. For this purpose, pedagogues in SOS Children’s Village facilities were observed in their behavior for two years. First, the researchers determined nutritional knowledge, food purchases and what and how often people cooked themselves. After that, four nutrition seminars took place. During follow-up examinations one, four and twelve months later, the refrigerator was also checked.
The researchers found an increase in knowledge with regard to nutrition, and awareness of children’s health “increased significantly in the medium and long term”, not only with regard to nutrition, but in general. Their own eating habits improved only slightly, and changing the behavior they have practiced in adults takes more time, the scientists stated.
A look in the fridges showed that the amount of sugary foods and beverages as well as the amount and quality of dairy and meat products remained the same despite the workshops. However, improvements were seen in fruits and vegetables.
“Now we know that it is possible to positively influence adults – whose eating habits are rather difficult to change – in order to be more careful with the health of children and their diet,” said Hutter. Workouts would work better if done over long periods of time and repeated. It is important to address the selection of ingredients and the amount of food.
A guilty conscience when eating is counterproductive, stated nutritionist Andrea Ficala. But dealing with food, its origin and your own consumption habits is important. In Austria, twice to three times as much meat and meat products are consumed as recommended.
Previous studies had shown that knowledge alone is not enough to change eating behavior. According to the Austrian Nutrition Report (2017), high-fat and high-calorie cuisine is still preferred – 24 percent always, 57 percent often. In Austria, 38 percent of the population and more than twelve percent of the eleven to 17 year olds are obese or overweight.
Only a little more than half of the households cook once a day. “Ready-made salads or frozen vegetables can be of the same quality as fresh products. But most ready-made meals contain too much salt, fat or sugar,” said Hutter, adding that there are also additives. “Ready meals also tempt you to eat more.” If you cook yourself more often, you will eat healthier.
Much was changed by the corona crisis, the study happened to fall into the first lockdown. In the meantime, the respondents invested more time in preparing food and tended to eat more – and often put on weight – while more attention was paid to health. “The Kenwood Good Food Nutrition Study is one of the first surveys in the world to show that although enjoyment and health have been rated higher since the crisis, this has hardly been reflected in changes in behavior, for example with regard to purchases or changes in nutritional content,” said Hutter.