Food for kids

An overwhelming proportion of kids foods are far from healthy.
 
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01.Introduction

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An overwhelming proportion of kids' foods are far from healthy, even though the marketing campaigns for many of these foods suggest that they are.

This article aims to:
  • Provide you with information about food products that will help you to make informed choices about food for your kids.
  • Empower parents who want to take further action to campaign for changes to kids food and the way they're marketed.
  • Put pressure on the food industry to improve the nutritional composition and advertising of kids' food.

CHOICE wants to ensure that the food supply and marketing of food encourages healthy eating and does not undermine efforts to reduce obesity. 

For more information on Children's food, see Kids food and health.

What are the criteria?

The criteria used when assessing products are based on nutrition recommendations and dietary guidelines established by government health experts in Australia and internationally.

The criteria is designed to help you make healthy choices for your kids. They help you determine which foods are high in the nutrients we shouldn't have too much of – fats, sugars and sodium (or salt) – and which are low in those nutrients. It's a judgement about the food itself rather than the contribution it makes to a child's daily nutritional intake, so it's relevant to the whole family and all foods. It's okay for kids to occasionally eat foods that have too much fat, sugar or salt, but if they eat too many of these foods every day this can add up to an unhealthy diet.

What about milk drinks?

The 'drinks criteria' (below) sets lower limits for the amount of fat, saturated fat, sugar and sodium that can be in a drink, compared to a food. Milk is naturally higher in total fat and saturated fat than other drinks but the protein and calcium and other nutrients in milk mean it is an important part of a healthy diet. The nutritional benefits of milk, compared with other drinks, means milk drinks deserve to be assessed against different nutrition criteria to other drinks. For this reason, CHOICE Food for Kids applies the 'food criteria' to milk drinks.

The Australian Guide to Healthy Eating considers milk to be one of the three most important foods in the dairy food group along with yoghurt and hard cheeses. Milk, yoghurt and cheese are good sources of calcium and protein as well as other important vitamins and minerals. We should eat between two and five serves of this food group each day.
The Australian Guide to Healthy Eating advises that water is the best drink for hydration. Soft drinks and fruit drinks are considered ‘extra foods’ and are not essential to provide nutrients that the body needs. The Australian Guide to Healthy Eating considers that juices are part of the fruit group but acknowledges that they don’t have the same fibre content as fresh fruit.

Food criteria 
 
Criteria for drinks
 
Criteria for fibre
 

Daily intake for an eight-year-old

 

 Male    

Female   

Energy (A)

7900kJ

7400kJ 

Protein (B) 

20g

20g 

Fat (C) 

63g

59g 

Saturated fat (C)

21g

20g 

Sugars (D) 

95g

89g 

Fibre (E)

18g

18g

Sodium (F)

1400mg

1400mg

Calcium (B)

700mg

700mg

Iron (B)

10mg

10mg

(A) This is the estimated requirement, based on light to moderate activity levels.
(B) This is the recommended dietary intake.
(C) This amount of fat and saturated fat provides 30% and 10% respectively of the estimated energy requirement, which is acceptable according to government dietary guidelines.
(D) This amount of sugar provides 20% of the estimated energy requirement, which is acceptable according to government dietary guidelines.
(E) Regularly eating at least this amount of fibre is recommended.
(F) Regularly eating more than this amount can have adverse effects.

 
 

 

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