‘Mixed bag’ for healthy kids meals

Parents and carers are advised to approach with caution the vast array of online recipes and nutritional advice for healthy meals, with some far better than others.

Nutrition and dietetics experts at Flinders University, and co-investigators from Cancer Council NSW, scoured 2000 websites on the internet and 768 apps for the best examples.

The wide-ranging investigation made variable assessments on content and functionality, advising Australian families to seek out government or evidence-based websites for the best nutritional advise.

“We found websites consistent with the national dietary guidelines, often developed by or in partnership with government departments or non-government organisations, were more credible,” says Caring Futures Institute researcher Dr Dorota Zarnowiecki, from the Flinders University College of Nursing and Health Sciences. 

Nutritional researcher Dr Dorota Zarnowiecki,

Two examples of Australian websites that included many of the best features were: Healthy School Lunchbox (NSW Government) and the CCNSW Healthy Lunch Box.

Many of the commercially developed apps scored lower if the content was less consistent with dietary guidelines, even using recipes with junk food ingredients or less nutritional dietary choices.

The researchers recommend parents:

  1. Look for content that has been developed or reviewed by a government or non-government organisation, or a health professional.
  2. The information provided should be consistent with the Australian dietary guidelines – recommending a variety of foods from the five food groups and promote water as the main drink
  3. Avoid websites and apps that promote the inclusion of processed foods and sugar sweetened drinks, or those that promote the unnecessary restriction of core food groups

The paper, ‘A systematic evaluation of digital nutrition promotion websites and apps for supporting parents to influence children’s nutrition’ (February 2020) by Dorota Zarnowiecki, Chelsea E. Mauch, Georgia Middleton, Louisa Matwiejczyk, Wendy L. Watson, Jane Dibbs, Anita Dessaix and Rebecca K. Golley was published in the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity DOI: 10.1186/s12966-020-0915-1.


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