Fruit and vegetables: Attitudes and knowledge of primary school children

The importance of a balanced diet is well recognised and the consumption of fruit and vegetables makes a major contribution towards this. The purpose of this research was to evaluate whether children, aged 8-11 years could correctly identify commonly available fruit and vegetables; to assess the acceptability of these; and to gain a broad understanding of children’s perceptions of ‘healthy eating’.

Fruit and vegetables used were those readily available in retail outlets in the UK. Data were collected from three year-groups (n = 221) using a questionnaire supported by semi-structured interviews and discussions. The overall results show that fruit was more popular than vegetables and recognition of fruit better; melons being the least well identified. Recognition of vegetables increased with age; the least well identified being cabbage which was confused with lettuce by 32%, 16% and 17% of pupils in their respective age groups. Most children (75%) were familiar with the term healthy eating, citing school (46%) as the most common source of information. Pupils generally showed an awareness and understanding of current recommendations for a balanced diet, although to some, the message has become confused.

It was concluded that if fresh fruit and vegetables are to form part of a balanced diet, the ‘health message’ needs to be clearer. Fruit is well liked; vegetables are less acceptable with many being poorly recognized, factors which need to be addressed.

For further information about this research please email Dr Heather Hartwell.