Australian children's food and drink preferences: Implications for heath professionals
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Aim: Children’s food and drink preferences play an important role in determining their consumption behaviours, but data pertaining to Australian children’s preferences are lacking. The present study investigated children’s preferences and health practitioners’ assumptions relating to these preferences. Methods: Five hundred and twenty-four Australian primary schoolchildren completed a written survey to explore their food and drink preferences and 576 health professionals (HPs) participated in an online survey to identify their perceptions of children’s preferences. The traffic light system of food classification was used to determine the healthiness of the foods and drinks nominated as favourites by children and HPs. Data were analysed using chi-square tests to assess the extent to which children’s and HPs’ responses differed. Differences according to socio-demographic variables were investigated. Results: Children’s reported preferences were healthier than HPs expected. Younger children had healthier preferences than their older peers, and girls chose healthier items than boys. Children from the medium socioeconomic schools preferred healthier foods compared with their low socioeconomic peers, but low socioeconomic children preferred healthier drinks compared to medium socioeconomic children. There were no differences between the HPs’ results according to demographic variables. Conclusions: Given that children are reporting preferences for healthy options yet intakes of healthy foods are suboptimal among Australian children, efforts to improve the health status of Australian children should include strategies to encourage adults to make healthy foods and drinks more available and accessible.
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