GERMANY, Berlin. Too many calories, sugar, saturated fat and salt: Fewer and fewer young parents are able to prepare meals and are turning more often to unhealthy convenience foods, warns the German health insurance company AOK.
Whether one uses nutritional labelling correctly, prepares food oneself, stores healthy supplies, plans meals consciously, eats healthily despite scarce resources, eats together, can resist sweets or chooses the right snacks: All this is by definition part of so-called nutritional competence. However, Germany is not too well off in this respect, as a study by AOK shows. According to the study, more than half of all Germans (53.7%) have problematic or even inadequate nutritional competence.
For the survey conducted by the "Facit Digital" agency, just under 2,000 people were questioned on eight topics. The results show clear differences between the sexes. While more than half of the women (53%) have adequate nutritional competence, the figure for men is just 38%. In contrast, the results of people with and without a migration background do not differ.
Younger people are the main cause for concern. In the age group between 18 and 24 years, only 37.1% of those questioned have sufficient competence. "Only every third young adult knows how healthy eating works. This is alarming," emphasizes Martin Litsch, Chairman of the Board of the AOK Federal Association.
The positive correlation between higher educational qualifications and improved nutritional competence also highlights the need for action. Only 37.2% of people with a secondary or elementary school leaving certificate have sufficient knowledge, while the proportion of people with a high school diploma is 56.4%. "If we want a change of course, we must firmly anchor the topic of healthy eating in our educational system. The teaching of nutritional competence must not end with the school gong; it would also be important in youth work and adult education.
Prof. Berthold Koletzko, Chairman of the Nutrition Commission of the German Society for Child and Youth Medicine and a practicing pediatrician, is also regularly confronted with this development in his everyday practice. "In general, I see an increasing decline in the ability of young parents to prepare meals independently from basic foods. This is also problematic because finished products regularly contain too many calories, sugar, saturated fat and salt. Thus it comes altogether to a worse nourishing quality in many families with children - straight also, if these cannot differentiate simply between worse and better finished products.
Therefore, the ability of people to make a healthy choice of food and drink to protect their health is more important today than ever before. In fact, of the eight fields of competence examined, "healthy comparison" is the one that causes the greatest difficulties. Around 72% of those surveyed lack the tools they need to make decisions about the right product choice, for example. "It was high time that the food traffic light, the so-called Nutri-Score, was also introduced in Germany. However, there is no point in the food industry being allowed to place the labeling of nutrients on its products at its whim. We need a commitment here," emphasizes Litsch.
Once again, the AOK is also raising the problem of high sugar content in food. For example, 80% of the convenience foods in German supermarkets contain added sugar. Consumers are therefore lacking healthy options already when shopping. For this reason, the AOK has been working for several years to reduce sugar consumption in Germany. "To achieve this, we need above all binding reduction targets with the industry and, in addition, a ban on marketing for children's foods with a high sugar content," said Dr. Kai Kolpatzik, head of the Prevention Department in the AOK Federal Association.