A new survey has revealed the misunderstandings that children are most likely to have about food. Just one in three can identify foods that are high in protein, though the majority of children can spot foods high in fat or sugar. Furthermore, 24% of children think that the reason why people need protein is to ‘help them see in the dark’ and 36% believe that eating spinach is the best way to build muscles.

A new survey has revealed how much children know about their nutrition and how it affects their bodies; with the results revealing that they begin to struggle when it comes to identifying carbohydrates and protein, compared to sugar and fat, and that a quarter think eating protein-rich foods will help them to see in the dark.

The survey was conducted by the protein supplement company P-Fit (www.P-Fit.co.uk), which launched earlier this month. As part of the research into family attitudes towards nutrition in the UK, 2,012 British parents were surveyed, all of whom had a child aged between 5 and 10 years old. Participants were asked to consult with their children for the survey.

Initially, all respondents were provided with four collages of food items and invited to ask their children which food groups the items fell into. For instance, the collage of sweets, chocolate and grapes would fall under sugar, while the picture of a chicken breast, steak and eggs would be protein. All of the children correctly identified the ‘sugar’ food collage (100%) and 91% correctly identified the ‘fat’ food collage. When it came to the ‘carbohydrate’ food collage, however, just 52% could correctly identify it, while less than a third (31%) could identify ‘protein’.

Following on from this, the children (via the parents) were asked to choose why human beings need each of the four food groups, out of a list of suggested answers. A quarter of children (24%) believed that humans needed protein to ‘help them see in the dark’, while 12% believed that sugar was required to ‘make their hair grow’.

Next parents were asked to find out what their child would eat if they wanted to get ‘big and strong’. The majority of children, 36%, stated that they would eat ‘spinach’, while 27% would opt for ‘biscuits and cakes’ and 13% stated that they would rely on ‘fizzy drinks’ to fuel their muscles. Just 24% stated that they would eat ‘meat, nuts and eggs’.

Finally, the parents of the children were asked “Do you actively try to teach your child about different nutrients and food groups?” to which almost half (49%) admitted that they did not. Of these, the majority (63%) felt that it was ‘irrelevant or not interesting’ to their child, 21% were concerned ‘it may lead to diet or body image problems’ and 16% stated that they felt they did ‘not understand nutrition enough’ to teach their child.

Oliver Cookson, founder of www.P-Fit.co.uk, commented on the results of the study:

“Children of all ages should know about nutrition, food groups and their functions; it’s an amazing subject and can really grip a child’s imagination and encourage them to take responsibility for their health from a young age. Educating them doesn’t need to be boring; parents can easily make it fun by involving them in the shopping trips or doing some baking or cooking together. It’s really all about how you approach it – it can actually help ease the problems faced by parents of fussy eaters, and encourage little ones to clear their plates!

“It’s not a surprise that children know far more about fat and sugar than other groups; likely because they are warned about having too much! It’s important to be positive about food and teach children the wonders of the human body and what it can accomplish, with the right fuel. The subject of how we function is fascinating, and we believe that children should be taught about nutrition from an early age.”