HEALTH

The People Looking After Your Kids Don't Know Much About Nutrition

An apple a day does something, I'm just not sure what.

20/05/2016 1:08 PM AEST | Updated 15/07/2016 12:52 PM AEST
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Early childhood educators have poor nutrition knowledge, with two percent answering 11 questions correctly in a Queensland University of Technology survey.

The study of more than 1000 long-day-care, family-day-care and kindergarten teachers showed one in two were could not identify red meat as a source of iron and one third overstated children's daily dairy needs while 55 percent overestimated daily fruit requirements.

Despite the poor results, researcher Phoebe Cleland said most teachers felt confident about their nutrition knowledge.

This mix of low knowledge with high confidence could mean the wrong nutrition messages are reaching children and families.

"Our survey found many early childhood education and care staff need support to build their nutrition knowledge, but they're not aware of this -- with many educators saying they feel confident in this area," Cleland said.

"This mix of low knowledge with high confidence could mean the wrong nutrition messages are reaching children and families."

Help is at hand, however, with the Dietitians Association of Australia running a teach-the-teachers program called LEAP -- Learning, Eating, Active Play, Sleep.

Children's eating practices are being set for life in the early years, so child care educators have a wonderful opportunity to influence good habits.

Association president Liz Kellett said early childhood teachers had the responsibility to fill impressionable young minds with the correct information.

"Children's eating practices are being set for life in the early years, so child care educators have a wonderful opportunity to influence good habits and life-long health," Kellett said.

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Children learn through their teachers.

"They're on the ground talking to children about healthy and not-so-healthy choices, and also modelling healthy eating, so the potential to make a positive difference is huge."

Cleland said the teachers who completed the original surveys had all since undertaken LEAPS, along with 800 educators and 33,000 children over the last three years.

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