Have you met the child who prefers chia seeds to chips? That one who likes lettuce over lentils?
You know the type, the one whose mother will coyly profess their child always goes for the fruit sticks at the birthday party instead of the chocolate crackles.
I’ve always envied the boasting ability that kind of dietary stamina brings.
Oh don’t worry about a lolly bag for Lucy, she’d refer to just take a piece of watermelon home.
My kids look amazed at such preferences – they are the type who go straight to the cheezels, delighted in the ability to indulge when presented with the opportunity.
Should I offer them the choice of fish and chips or salad and veggie lasagna it doesn’t take a genius to work out which one they pick every time.
( The key is, I’ve learnt, not to let them choose…)
What I've learnt today is that my kids they fall smack bang into the majority of children who prefer processed food over more healthy choices - and given what we see every day at the supermarket it is not a surprising statistic.
But a study out today has shown that three in five parents are concerned about the fact that their child prefers processed food, with nearly half of Australian parents concerned their child is actually unable to make healthy food choices.
The kids don't even know what they are choosing.
The survey, by Medibank and the Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Foundation found that one in five primary school children couldn’t say where fresh food came from, one in four didn’t know that butter comes from cow’s milk, apples and bananas are grown on trees; that potatoes are grown underground; or that tomatoes are grown on vines and two-thirds of parents said their children couldn’t bake a potato, and less could boil an egg.
It showed that boys are even less likely than girls to know how to cook rice on the stove, how to bake a potato, or how to boil an egg. They found that children who knew more about how food is grown and where food comes from were more likely to know how to perform these tasks.
Medibank Chief Medical Officer, Dr Linda Swan, said that with one in four Australian children overweight or obese the survey showed we still had a long way to go to support our children to make healthy food choices for their future.
What is worrying is that these findings are nothing new. A study last year had similar results. That study, by Woolworths found that 92 per cent of kids did not know bananas grew on plants.
Researchers also found that "six in 10 [children] are unaware that herbs such as mint grow from the ground".
In 2012, a national study conducted by the Australian Council for Educational Research found children were just as confused back then.
The survey, made up of children from years six and ten found concerning holes in their basic food knowledge.
"Three-quarters of Australian children in their final year of primary school believe cotton socks come from animals and 27 per cent are convinced yoghurt grows on trees," Fairfax reported at the time.
In 2013, a British survey found that almost a third of the country's primary school children thought cheese was made from plants and a quarter thought fish fingers came from chicken or pigs.
"A third of five-to-eight-year-olds believe that they [pasta and bread] are made from meat," reported the BBC.
So what is the solution?
Well, aside from making a “tree-change” and re-locating your kids to the nearest farm-gate one way forward is the increasing availability of programs like the Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Program. This program, together with a similar one called the Australian Organic Schools program, reach over 100,000 students across Australia.
These sorts of initiatives teach children how to grow, harvest, prepare, and share seasonal food.
More on why kids enjoy the Kitchen Garden Program....
But we don’t get off that light – us parents need to join the fight too.
While we might think it common sense that fish fingers come from well, fish we have to remember that unless we are actually out there fishing with our little ones they might have no clue that they don’t come breaded and cut into slices on a plate with a little dash of mayo.
How is a kid to know a tomato grows on a plant unless they see one?
How is a child to know how to boil an egg unless we let them?
We need to talk to them about food, show them fresh produce, have it in our homes and cook and eat it ourselves – even if, at times they’d prefer the lollies to the lentils.