Children's selection of fruit and vegetables in a 'dream versus healthy' lunchbox survey

Emma Dresler-Hawke, Dean Whitehead, Leigh Parker

    Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

    5 Citations (Scopus)


    Background: Internationally, it is well established that the behaviour, performance, and achievement of schoolchildren is directly linked to the nutritional status of overall diet including the contents of their school lunch-boxes. In a previous survey study by the lead authors, primary school childrens food consumption behaviour was investigated. Results indicated that most childrens lunch-boxes contained an over-representation of undesirable food groups and an under-representation of fruit and vegetables. This follow-up study examined childrens awareness of healthy food choices and investigated what food groups children would choose if given free choice when constructing a lunch-box. Methods: The data was obtained by surveying 1,184 primary school children from eight different urban primary schools in the Manawatu Region of New Zealand. Food items included in this survey represented the 40 most common foods from the previous study. A series of accompanying food charts were used in combination with the checklists. From these lists the children were asked to construct a hypothetical ideal dream lunch-box and a healthy lunch-box. Results: Results indicated a significant difference between the fruit and vegetable content between lunchboxes, demonstrating that children understood fruit and vegetables are healthy but that they did not necessarily translate this knowledge into action. Conclusion: The influences on childrens choices in fruit and vegetables are as complex as the barriers to them eating. This study offers unique insight into the knowledge and behaviours of schoolchildren when selecting and consuming fruit and vegetables especially given a degree of autonomy and choice.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)736-745
    Number of pages10
    JournalHealth Education Journal
    Issue number6
    Publication statusPublished - Nov 2012


    • child and adolescent health
    • nutrition and diet
    • school food services
    • school health services


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