If your kids love chicken nuggets and you're always battling to get them to eat more vegetables, you may think this product from Steggles presents the perfect solution.
"Boosted with veggies", the packaging proclaims, with "hidden cauliflower and potato" that equates to "¼ cup of vegetables per 10 nuggets". It's a win-win, right?
But before you add these to your trolley and notch it up as a clever parenting hack, you should know that the "boosted with veggies" label is not as impressive as it sounds.
These nuggets contain just 14g of vegetables per 100g serve, which is less than a fifth of one serving of vegetables. This means the kids would need to eat the entire 400g pack of nuggets plus a portion of a second pack to get just one whole serving of vegetables.
This is a processed food product that contains a very small amount of vegetables but high levels of sodium if you were to eat enough to get one serve of vegiesCHOICE food and nutrition expert Shadia Djakovic
"Most people don't eat enough vegetables, so putting a description on the pack such as 'Boosted with veggies' is clearly designed to present this as a good option for parents wanting to increase their kids', or even their own, intake of vegetables," says CHOICE food and nutrition expert Shadia Djakovic.
"The truth is, this is a processed food product that contains a very small amount of vegetables but high levels of sodium if you were to eat enough to get one serve of vegies, along with other additives such as sugar.
"The 'boosted with veggies' label has the potential to mislead consumers, many of whom are likely parents buying this product for their kids."
Amount of vegetables in one serve of Steggles Chicken Nuggets Boosted with Veggies.
'Boosted veg' is mostly potato
Of all the vegetables you've probably struggled to get your kids to eat, we'd hazard a guess that potato isn't one of them.
It's likely to be the more nutrient-dense but less 'palatable' vegetables such as cauliflower, spinach or broccoli that they're not keen on.
Which may have you reaching for a product that promises 'hidden cauliflower'.
But despite the illustration of plump cauliflower florets on the packaging, the cauliflower content is just 3g per serve, compared with potato content at 11g per serve.
Despite the illustration of plump cauliflower florets on the packaging, the cauliflower content is just 3g per serve
"Potatoes have a place in your diet but most of us already consume them regularly," says Shadia.
"It's important to consume a wide variety of vegetables, so a product that claims to be boosted with vegetables but contains mostly potatoes is not ideal."
The 2020–21 National Health Survey found that only 9% of children aged 2–17 years regularly eat the minimum recommended number of servings of vegetables and legumes/beans.
We should be wary of using packaged processed products like these to replace or even 'top up' their fresh vegetable intakeCHOICE food and nutrition expert Shadia Djakovic
"Getting children to eat more vegetables is often a struggle, but we should be wary of using packaged processed products like these to replace or even 'top up' their fresh vegetable intake," says Shadia.
"We should all be eating a wide variety of vegetables, and fresh produce and whole foods are far better options, especially when you're trying to set up good eating habits for kids."
Problematic marketing to parents
Parent and CHOICE editor Pru Engel regularly deals with food products marketed to kids that make big promises but offer little substance.
"Dinnertime can definitely be a battleground when you have kids. Of course you just want to give them food they'll eat that's good for them, too, so I can see why parents would be drawn to this product," she says.
"But it's misleading for brands to present these nuggets as a 'veg-boosted' option when they really contain such a miniscule serving that's mostly potato."
Of course you just want to give them food they'll eat that's good for them too, so I can see why parents would be drawn to this productCHOICE editor Pru Engel
With the rising cost of groceries affecting many households, Pru also takes issue with the price. These nuggets are $1 more expensive (at $6.50 per 400g) than their 'non-veg' counterparts, Steggles Crumbed Chicken Nuggets ($5.50 per 400g).
"I would rather buy the cheaper nuggets and spend the $1 I'm saving on fresh, frozen or tinned vegetables that will mean I'm getting way more vegetables into my kids' diet," says Pru. "They may not always eat all of it but at least this approach helps them learn what vegetables actually look and taste like."
This isn't the first time we've called out processed food products for taking a little creative licence with their veg-boosted claims. And highly processed foods with added or 'hidden' vegetables may have slightly more nutritional benefit when compared with similar foods that don't, and could well help increase your intake of vegetables.
But it's misleading ... to present these nuggets as a 'veg-boosted' option when they really contain such a miniscule serving that's mostly potatoCHOICE editor Pru Engel
But whatever the amount of 'hidden veg' these products contain, it's no match for actual fresh, frozen or tinned vegetables when it comes to hitting your five-a-day target. Nor do they encourage the healthiest of eating habits, which is vital when it comes to setting your kids up with a nutritious and varied diet.
We attempted to contact Steggles for comment, but they didn't respond to our questions.