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Program striving to get kids eating veg

Jul 24 2017

Li Chai

The ongoing challenge of tempting kids to ‘eat their veg’ has taken a high-tech turn, with University of Newcastle dietitians trying out telehealth technology and online resources in a new nutrition intervention.

As obesity prevelance continues to rise, and only 1 in 20 Australian children eat the recommended five servings of vegetables per day, the Back2Basics Family program aims to engage both parents and children in Newcastle and the Hunter Region to improve eating habits and diet quality for the whole family.

“By delivering a comprehensive nutrition education package online, we’re really hoping to help kids and their families eat well and maintain a consistent healthy weight,” study coordinator and dietitian Li Kheng Chai said.

“It’s a constant struggle these days because anyone, anywhere, can post dietary information online, but parents want a reliable and credible source of nutrition information that’s endorsed by health service providers. That’s where our program comes in.”

Back2Basics Family is an online program for the whole family that includes access to an interactive website, two telehealth sessions, and a closed Facebook group for parents – additionally one trial group will also receive nutrition SMS texts.

“Our information is based on the latest research and is tailored for parents and children in a family-friendly way – it is simple advice, although knowing how to apply it can be challenging.”

The program uses recipes and videos developed for a Back2Basics cooking initiative held several years ago while adding a telehealth service and a dedicated website.

Families are asked to complete the nationally recognised Australian Eating Survey then will receive a personal consultation with an Accredited Practicing Dietitian via telehealth video conferencing. They simply dial into an online virtual meeting room from their smartphone, tablet or home computer.

The dietitian will provide a personalised report based on the results from the survey and work with family members to set goals for the child’s usual food intake before a second telehealth session is conducted to gauge how the family is progressing.

“We believe this face-to-face approach has more impact than just sending families the survey report, and families can ask questions and get feedback from an expert,” Miss Chai said.

“At the same time, the website helps parents handle things like picky eaters and family mealtime stress, grocery shopping and meal preparation. There’s also a children’s section with interactive games involving a healthy eating theme.”

Enrolment for the randomised control trial has opened in Newcastle, Tamworth and Armidale, with 50 families sought. Recruiting criteria requires the child to be aged 5-11 years (before 12th birthday) and above a healthy weight. At least one parent must take part. It requires two visits to the University of Newcastle’s Callaghan campus over 3 months.

Back2Basics Family runs concurrently with Nutrition Connect for rural families which is proudly supported by nib foundation.

For details contact Li Kheng Chai at b2bfamily@newcastle.edu.au or 4921 5355.

Li Kheng Chai is from the University of Newcastle Priority Research Centre for Physical Activity and Nutrition, researching in conjunction with HMRI’s Cardiovascular program. HMRI partners with the University of Newcastle, Hunter New England Health and the Community.