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Children’s Perception of Food Needs

Children talked about milk and eggs generally being healthy:

“Because it has proteins and vitamin c…and carbohydrates.”

But children tended to think differently about cheese, especially processed cheese:

“Pizza is not healthy! Because of the cheese!”

“They’ve got too much cheese and only little bits of cheese are healthy.”

Children’s reasoning for why foods were healthy usually centred around them being or being made of fruit and vegetables:

“I dunno, I just knew, because it’s a vegetable.”

“It’s called tomato soup, so it must have tomatoes in it, so it must be healthy.”

Across all groups children were mindful of too much sugar being unhealthy, sometimes with precise awareness of the sugar content of food.

“Per 100g of ice cream, 28.5g is pure sugar.”

Caution of sugar also extended to foods that children thought were healthy:

“I think vegetables are healthier than fruit because fruit has more sugar in it.”

Children often made reference to eating a balanced and varied diet:

“If you eat too much of the healthy, sometimes it can get a little bit unhealthy for you… If you eat too much of, like pears, it can make you ill.”

“I think you should eat half of your plate healthy and a quarter in the middle, no about three quarters in the middle, basically a tiny percent unhealthy and the rest in the middle.”

“Because you don’t need to eat cookies and all that every day!”

Throughout the activities children also talked about places that children eat outside of the home, notably at school. Children had differing opinions on whether school food is healthy, but overall believed they had access to healthy options if they chose them:

“Maybe if their mum’s too busy they might go to aftercare?”

“When we go to the food canteen they give us healthy food.”

“They never give healthy food.”

“Our school used to serve rubbish and unhealthy food.”

“Every single person in school that I have seen eats at least one sandwich.”

“There is some people who don’t have sandwiches and just have sweets.”

One child shared their experience of a healthy lunch:

“I have packed lunch pretty much every day, and I always sit with my friends, and I always have a really healthy lunch. An apple, two ham and cheese sandwiches, grapes, and maybe one biscuit.”