There were plenty of smiles and squeals of delight when Healthy Harold arrived at the Mermaid Waters Community Kindergarten last week to meet eager youngsters during their kindy morning session.
The pre-schoolers, aged four and five, were the first children in the state to trial Life Education Queensland’s new nutrition education program to be implemented on the Gold Coast and at Logan and Ipswich before being rolled out across Queensland.
Delivered from early next year, the new Life Education program is designed to embed healthy eating messages from a young age and help stem the rising incidence of childhood obesity, overweight trends and junk-food eating.
Whilst the youngsters at Mermaid Waters kindy showed they were full of enthusiasm and energy, Life Education Queensland CEO Michael Fawsitt said overall nutrition trends were cause for concern, with more than a quarter of Queensland children obese or overweight and only one per cent meeting the recommended daily serves of fruit and vegetables.
“According to the most recent Queensland Chief Health Officer’s Report, vegetable consumption in children has dropped by 32 per cent since 2013,” Mr Fawsitt said.
“We also know that over-consumption of unhealthy food and drinks is contributing to more than a third of total energy intake and contributing to weight gain in some children.
“Habits begin to establish themselves at a young age, so we shouldn’t wait until children are six or seven years old to provide education on making healthy food choices.”
Gold Coast Health Trauma Service medical director Dr Martin Wullschleger, joined Mr Fawsitt at the media launch of the new nutrition program. Their main message: too much screen time and relentless junk-food marketing are having a big impact on the health of children.
“Just like we educate teenagers around the risks, choices and consequences of risky behaviours such as unsafe driving, drugs and drinking, this program will educate young children how to make smart choices when it comes to food and being physically active,” Dr Wullschleger said.
Educator Sue and Healthy Harold captivated the young audience with an interactive session on healthy eating, and the youngsters showed how keen they are to make healthy choices.
Mermaid Waters Community Kindergarten director and educator Michele Hoskins welcomed the new Life Education early learning nutrition program. The children already grow vegetable gardens and parents prepare ‘litter-free’ fresh food lunch boxes.
“To have these important healthy eating messages reinforced by Life Education and the much-loved Healthy Harold, is really going to help set youngsters on a lifelong path to a healthy lifestyle,” Ms Hoskins said.