Survey reveals significant gaps in children’s nutrition knowledge

New education campaign launched as fruit juice and sports drinks seen as‘essentials for survival’ by children

A new campaign has been launched by the Natural Hydration Council and Children’s Food Trust following an NHC surveySurvey of 500 children aged 7 – 9 years old, conducted for the Natural Hydration Council, by Opinion Matters in July 2014 which identified significant gaps in children’s knowledge in relation to which drinks are the most important for health.water for kids

When children aged 7-9 years old were asked which food or drinks their body needed for  survival, almost one in 10 (9.4%) believed that the body can survive without water. Worryingly, more than a third (38.4%) thought that their bodies need fruit juice to survive, and more than one in 10 (11.6%) believed that their bodies needed sports drinks to stay alive.

Furthermore, over half (52.6%) of children saw pasta as essential to the body’s survival, whilst one in five (19.9%) boys believe that the body needs sweets to survive.

Water is essential for lifePopkin B, D’Anci K, and Rosenberg I (2010) Water, Hydration and Health. Nutrition Review 68(8): 439–458, it’s one of the healthiest ways to hydrate, and it’s freely available in schools. Children are at greater risk of dehydration than adults due to their higher surface-to-body weight ratio and smaller reserves of body fluids. However, when asked When do you usually drink water? only half (51%) of children questioned said they drank it at school, with four out of ten (40%) having to be told to drink water by their parents.

To help tackle the gaps in hydration knowledge in a fun and interactive way, the Children’s Food Trust and Natural Hydration Council have teamed up to launch a new campaign to encourage children to have fun with water and make it their first choice for hydration. The Wise up with Water campaign will be available to all primary school teachers and families across the UK. It will include curriculum-based lesson plans designed to creatively educate children on the role of water in the body and healthy hydration.

Though research has shown that water may improve children’s visual attention and fine motor skills‘Water supplementation improves visual attention and fine motor skills in schoolchildren’, Paula Booth, Bianca Taylor and Caroline Edmonds, published in Education and Health, Vol. 30 No. 3, 2012, less than a third (29.7%) of children believe water helps them concentrate at school. More than a third (35.1%) do not drink water when thirsty and over 40% (42.4%) don’t drink water whilst playing sport or exercising.

These findings come ahead of a commitment from the Government to amend the National Curriculum to include basic principles of food and nutrition from September 2014 A spokesman for the Department for Education said “Given the obesity issues that face our children today, it is vital that they know as much as possible about healthy eating and what constitutes a balanced diet.”

Children’s Food Trust Head of Nutrition Dr Patricia Mucavele said: “Sugary drinks can contribute to tooth decay and weight gain and provide little nutritional value. Tooth decay and obesity are ever growing threats to our children’s health and helping them to develop good habits from a young age is essential to their future wellbeing. So we’re working with the Natural Hydration Council to highlight the benefits of drinking water.

“We’d like to see water much more available in schools and in public places ensuring children and adults alike having an easily accessible, healthy alternative to buying sugary drinks.”

Kinvara Carey, Natural Hydration Council said: “Encouraging healthy hydration habits and general awareness of basic nutrition from a young age is important. We hope through engaging with children in this way, they will be encouraged to consider their food and drink choices, and drink water, whether at school, at home or when they are on the move and continue to do so as teenagers and adults”.

As part of the Wise up with Water campaign, schools will also be able to win a ‘Wacky Water Challenge’ with Stefan Gates, star of CBBC’s Gastronauts and Incredible Edibles.

Stefan said, “Water is essential for life, but it’s clear from this research that most kids don’t know or care about the right amount they need to be healthy and happy. And let’s be honest: telling kids ‘you’ll be healthier if you drink more water’ is doomed to failure, just like all adult finger-wagging. My job is to take boring, complicated but vital ideas like hydration and make them fascinating and inspiring for everyone age seven to 70. That’s why I’m dead excited about this campaign, and about teaching the nation’s kids some amazing things about the wacky world of water.”

For more information on the Wise up with Water campaign, please visit: