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Kids' Nutrition and Health Survey Finds Most Want Healthier Food

To get our kids' take on health, nutrition, and exercise, Patty James, certified natural chef, holistic nutritionist, and author of More Vegetables, Please!, and her non-profit, DirectionFive.org, traveled to 41 states to conduct videotape interviews of kids from all walks of life.  

Eighteen thousand miles later, James returned to California, where researchers at Sonoma State University crunched the numbers and generated an 89-page report based on the kids' answers to a twenty-five question survey about health, food, and exercise.

Here are her findings:

Overall health

1. What does health mean to you?

  • 56.8% of the kids said health is how they felt physically
  • 14.8 percent of the kids said health was being both physically and mentally healthy;
  • 20.5% weren't sure what being healthy meant exactly; and
  • 3.4% thought health was being healthy mentally.

2. Do you think you are healthy? If yes, why? If not, why not?

  • 77.8% of the kids said, yes, they were healthy;
  • 7.8 % said no, they weren't healthy; and 14.4% said they were ‘sort of' healthy.
The not-healthy kids blamed the consumption of junk food.

3. Is your family healthy? Do you think they have healthy habits?

  • 80.2% of the kids said that their family was healthy;
  • 11.6% said their families were not healthy;
  • 8.1% didn't know if their family was or was not healthy.
  • 78.9% of the kids said that their family did have healthy habits;
  • 15.8% said they did not; and
  • 5.3% weren't sure.

One note about these statistics is that some of the kids told James after the interview that their families were not healthy (for instance, one said both their parents had diabetes!) and didn't have healthy habits, but they didn't want to say that earlier because their parents would be angry with them. "By far this question was the most discussed question after the interview," said James.

Hunger and nutrition knowledge

4. How do you know what food is healthy and what is not?

  • 29.8% of the kids said they went by ingredients
  • 2.4% went by how food made them feel
  • 9.5 % said they looked at preparation to decide
  • 34.5% looked at the kind of food (vegetables were almost always healthy, as an example)
  • 14.3% looked at other things, like if their Mom bought it for them, it must be healthy- James heard that one quite a bit) and
  • 9.5% didn't know.

5. Are you ever hungry because your family does not have enough to eat?

  • 10.7% of the kids said yes,
  • 79.8% said no, and
  • 9.5% of the kids said sometimes they were hungry.

6. Do you know how to read the nutritional value label on your food? If no, would you like to learn?

  • 91.6% of kids had noticed the food labels on packaged foods
  • 8.4% had not.
  • 65.4% of kids knew how to read them
  • 32.1% did not, and
  • 2.5% knew a few things.
  • 32.4% of kids learned about food labels at school
  • 29.7% learned from a family member
  • 24.3% were self-taught, and
  • 13.5% learned from someone else.
  • 73.1% of the kids wanted to learn more about food labels
  • 22.4% did not, and
  • 4.5% said they wanted to know more later in life, or else, they wanted to know only one or two items.
  • 81.8% of kids said that is they really understood food labels they would be healthier
  • 12.7 did not think they'd be healthier, and 5.5% weren't sure.

7. What foods give you the best energy?

  • 42.4% of kids said fruit, with an apple being by far the first choice
  • 8.2% said some sort of vegetable with carrots being the leader,
  • 5.9% said protein helped them (eggs, steak)
  • 16.5% had a combination answer, with fruit being part of that combination most times,
  • 9.4% didn't know, and
  • 17.6% had widely varied answers (granola, chips, etc., not all junk however)
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