Eating healthy: Children speak up!

Look familiar?

We’ve seen the food pyramid day in day out in primary school and we’ve heard our teachers blab on about how we need to have a balanced diet.

But, let’s be real. How many us actually put what we learnt into practice?

BMC Public Health recently published the results of the CHANGE! (Children’s Health Activity and Nutrition: Get Educated!) study. While most studies have explored obesity as a result of the lack of education in healthy eating, CHANGE! gathered qualitative data to find out the factors and barriers towards healthy eating despite learning about balanced diets in school.

What’s unique about this study is that it didn’t only interview parents and teachers, but also surveyed children themselves!

Unsurprisingly, the study revealed that children had a really good understanding of a balanced diet. They were not only able to understand that fruits and vegetables are healthy but were also able to differentiate food groups and the negative association between excessive consumption and health.

Key influencers

When asked who their role models of health were, children recognised parents and school as the key influencers of healthy eating!

Key Barriers

Topping the list of hurdles is the sensory experience of junk food. Children felt that smelling, tasting and even seeing ‘unhealthy’ food on TV advertisements enhanced their mood and made them crave to eat them.

I couldn’t agree more, so here’re few gifs for you to stimulate your senses!

Convenience was next on the list!

‘I just eat anything that is in the fridge’

Clearly, knowledge is no barrier to healthy eating among children. Children have a really good understanding that they ought to eat a balanced diet but are hindered by various external sources.

The authors suggest using the exact sensory experience to influence willingness to consume healthy food among children. This experience is a result of the children’s sensitivity to taste and smell and the authors feel that gradual exposure to varying healthy food in the diet may encourage more healthy habits in the long-run.

I’m however, skeptical about this suggestion because honestly, unhealthy food just  smells, looks and tastes better. What could work is perhaps,  a little marketing for healthy food. Instead of saying this is bad for you, eat this instead, sensationalising a balanced diet might give children a sensory experience that is similar to ‘unhealthy’ food. 

Hey look at this yummy green thing, mmmmmmmmm it’s so good.

The overarching learning point is, adults, be it parents or teachers, have their own pre-conceived notions of how they should make children eat healthily with some even forcing their children into eating fruits and vegetables. I’m sure some of us have grown up listening to ‘You can’t leave the table until you finish your veggies‘.

This study was helpful in getting a child’s perspective on eating habits. Understanding how children feel about being healthy could help us tailor a better intervention and messaging strategy to communicate information that help children translate their knowledge into practice. The study calls for a change in design of interventions that can warrant a behaviour change rather than just a physical increase in knowledge on healthy eating.

Read more on BMC Public Health

DISCLAIMER: This post was an excuse to share the enticing food porn gifs on Tumblr.


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