How Australian parents’ wealth and health attitudes affect what their kids eat, research

Posted by AFN Staff Writers on 13th April 2015
How Australian parents’ wealth and health attitudes affect what their kids eat, research
How Australian parents’ wealth and health attitudes affect what their kids eat, research

Household wealth plays a big part in determining the healthiness of the food parents put in the pantry (and what their children are actually eating), according to the latest health attitude and food consumption data from market research organisation Roy Morgan Research.

Half of Australian parents “look for additive-free food”

According to Roy Morgan Research overall, “50 per cent of Australian parents with children under 16 in the home said they usually try to buy additive-free food, up from 45 per cent in 2010”. But parents in the lowest socio-economic quintile were “much less likely than those in the highest to agree”.

More than half (54 per cent) of parents in the top AB socio-economic quintile agreed that “I try to buy additive-free food”, as did the majority of those in the C quintile (52 per cent). But less than half of all other parents said they try to avoid buying food with additives: from 49 per cent of D quintile, 47 per cent of E, to just 40 per cent of parents in the lowest FG quintile.

“More than five million Australians are parents with children under 16 in the home,” said Michele Levine, CEO, Roy Morgan Research. “Our research into health attitudes shows that over the last five years an increasing proportion of parents are mindful of their own calorie, fat, dairy, and red meat intake, but are slightly less likely to be trying to limit how much sugar their kids eat,” she said.

Eating habits of children depends on household income

In the 12 months to December 2014, Roy Morgan Research also surveyed the children of many of these parents in its Young Australians Survey. In line with their parents’ attitudes, these Roy Morgan Research said the results showed some big differences in the eating habits of children depending on their household’s level of wealth.

Nearly two-thirds (62 per cent) of children aged 6-13 living in AB households ate rice in an average week and 55 per cent ate salad, while less than half eat hot chips, fries or wedges (46 per cent) or noodles (39 per cent), and only around 1 in 4 eat chicken nuggets (24 per cent).

However, children’s eating habits changed as household wealth declined. With each successive drop in socio-economic status, children in the household were less likely to eat rice or salad, and more likely to eat noodles or chicken nuggets. During an average week, less than half of kids in E or FG homes ate salad, and more ate hot chips, fries or wedges than rice.

“While the food that parents buy and give to their children is heavily influenced by the affordability of groceries, there may be many other issues at play such as the number of children (and parents) in the household, working hours, accessibility of fresh produce in the local area, as well as underlying attitudes and tastes,” Ms Levine said. “For example, price alone does not fully explain the inverse changes in popularity for rice and noodles among children across socio-economic quintiles,” she said.

“Our Single Source survey can connect parents’ demographics and household status with their health attitudes, grocery shopping behaviours, exercise habits and food consumption rates to deliver a 360-degree view of the changing lifestyles of Australian families,” Ms Levine said.