Lunchboxes, vegans and texting about vegetables

News News & events

28 Nov 2018

A daily text message could encourage students to eat more fruit and vegetables, Bachelor of Applied Science (Human Nutrition) student Alicia Clark has found.

Only 40% of New Zealanders meet Ministry of Health guidelines, of five or more serves of fruit and vegetables a day, and 19 to 30 year olds are the least likely to meet the recommendations. They are also the most likely to own a smartphone, which is the newest tool in combatting health issues.

Alicia’s study, with nutrition programme leader Dr Maria Choukri, texted 26 students daily to remind them of the positive effects of eating five serves of fruit and vegetables a day on their mood and mental performance. Their intake increased by 1.2 serves a day; up from three serves a day.

Alicia’s was one of seven Ara student posters accepted for the Nutrition Society of New Zealand conference on 28 – 30 November at Massey University Auckland.  

“Anybody and everybody who is someone in nutrition is going to be there. It is an excellent forum for networking and also for finding out what is happening in nutrition,” Maria said.

The students at the Nutrition Society of New Zealand Conference

Ethical vegans can be deficient in micronutrients

Zane Stankuna’s poster for the conference looks at the micronutrient intake of vegans living in Christchurch – and found them to be lacking.

“Over the last few decades the interest in veganism has increased due to various health benefits of a vegan diet such as weight reduction, reduction of various chronic illnesses and overall health and longevity,” she said.

A vegan diet can be beneficial, but only if well informed. “When well-planned and varied, a vegan diet has been shown to provide many health benefits, however vegans who lack knowledge of, and interest in, nutrition may experience nutrient deficiencies.”

Zane’s group of eight female vegans, studied over a three day diet diary, were lacking in vitamin B12, vitamin D, calcium, omega 3, fatty acids, selinium and in some cases iron, zinc and vitamin A. No individuals met all the required levels; at least one micronutrient was deficient, if not more.

Motivation for being vegan played a part. ‘Ethical vegans’ who wanted to reduce harm to animals, “tend to choose dairy and meat alternatives which might be high in sodium,” whereas those who chose veganism for health reasons were more mindful of their own wellbeing.  

What’s in Canterbury’s lunchboxes?

Abby Taylor, who studied the contents of Canterbury children’s lunchboxes, had 264 participants complete an online survey. She found that “brown bread was more common than white bread, vegetables were about 50% of lunches and water was the main drink,” which was a positive snapshot. However, this was mitigated slightly by the finding that only 4.2% of children returned the chips in their lunchbox but 27.3% returned fruit or vegetables.

Parents prioritised food their children would actually eat and healthy food was the second consideration. “I chose the project because I think it is really important that kids get a good start. Parents are the ones who choose what their kids eat, however they don’t always get much say, so it is interesting to see what they are feeding their children,” Abby said.

Abby Taylor (L) with nutrition programme leader Dr Maria Choukri.