A method that is getting adolescents to eat healthy will prevent obesity in later years. Here is a summary in the popular press of a new research paper, which achieved this goal. The summary was based on this publication from the University of Texas dated Sept. 12, 2016.
Study highlights about getting adolescents to eat healthy
Here are the main findings regarding the study.
- Teenagers have a heightened sensitivity for perceived injustice and they react against authority. This was the starting point of modifying their likes and dislikes for food. Eating healthy food was portrayed as taking a stand against injustice. We need to stand up for vulnerable people who are unable to protect themselves.
- The researchers worked with eighth graders to help them reshape their perception of healthy eating. They did this by convincing them that what they eat would be an act of independence. It served the purpose of social justice.
- The research team explained to them that the food industry was manipulating adolescents to eat unhealthy processed foods. In addition they also wanted adolescents to eat larger portions of that food, which makes them gain weight. As a result the food industry’s profits increase.
- The food industry is engineering processed foods with taste enhancers. This makes adolescents become addicted to it and they over consume. In addition the food industry mislabels food so it appears that food would be healthy, when it is not.
- Finally, food manufacturers target poor people and very young children using advertisements specifically geared to them to sell them the unhealthiest products.
- The researchers managed to frame healthy eating as a way to “stick it to them”. They painted a negative image of the manufacturers of junk food. They stressed that these junk food executives were greedy for money, but did not care about the health of the consumers. These food processors were painted as controlling adult authority figures. Avoiding junk foods was a way to rebel against the control of these people.
This approach worked. It worked so well that the following findings were noted.
Results of the campaign of getting adolescents to eat healthy
- Test subjects preferred water to sugary sodas to a tune of 7%. In 11% of cases they opted to forgo at least one snack (chips or cookies) in favor of eating fruit, carrots, or nuts.
- These figures, if sustained will make a boy lose 1 pound of body fat every 6 weeks. A girl would lose 1 pound of body fat every 8 weeks.
- Preventing weight gain is key, policy analysts stated. This approach is much more effective than trying to make an obese adolescent lose weight.
- This approach can be used to create a healthy food campaign for adolescents. Students can design posters and online videos can be used as teaching tools. That will create a lasting and self-reinforcing social movement.
Getting adolescents to eat healthy is an ongoing struggle for many parents. What this research showed is that it is possible to motivate adolescents to pay attention to what they eat. They can decide on their own what quality of food they choose. Adolescents will also note whether or not they are being manipulated by the food industry. This creates healthy living patterns, where they read food labels, refuse to eat junk foods and adopt a new healthy lifestyle. Once they have learnt this skill, it will be with them for life. This approach makes them resistant to consuming processed foods later in life and prevents obesity when they are older.