Ultra-processed food makes up half of Kiwi kids diet - study

For the first time, a study has looked into the amount of processed food in Kiwi kids' diets, finding almost half of what they eat is ultra-processed and it starts from a young age. 

The study looked into 800 children over 10 years and found processed foods like bread, crackers, and muesli bars are the basis of most kiwi kids' diets. 

It found that by 12-months-old 45 percent of a child's diet was made up of ultra-processed food and that increased to 51 percent by five-years-old. 

The study also found It's a misconception that processed foods are more common in disadvantaged areas. 

University of Otago Researcher Louise Fangupo says it's an interesting outcome. 

"A lot of the scientific literature would suggest that a lot of these foods are cheaper so maybe that would have been a reasonable expectation but it's not reflected in what we've found."

While ultra-processed foods are typically high in sugar, unhealthy fats and salt, it doesn't mean all products are bad, it's about moderation and choice. 

"Some ultra-processed foods are definitely not foods we should be giving our kids every day but some things are actually staples," Fangupo says. 

"So it's not so much the processing that matters, it's what the food and its nutrient content is."

Anya Bell professional childcare chef at Nurture Childcare Centre says nutrition is critical in a child's early years.

"The nutrition that the children have in those first few years is so important to their developmental growth, brain growth, everything." 

She says it's important to explain the difference between food and drink options. 

"It's very hard to say to them, this food is bad for you and it will make you sick because they will expect to be sick immediately and if it doesn't happen they'll think you must be wrong." 

But the earlier healthy eating begins, the more likely kids will develop the superpower of good habits as adults.