Obesogenic environments: children’s health and eating habits in Western societies

Children’s health and eating habits have been the subject of heated recent debate. As Johansson explains, “children today have a more sedentary lifestyle—often based in front of the television or computer, that parents drive them to school and activities, and that they eat too little fiber and fruit and vegetables, while consuming an unhealthy level of high-fat and high-sugar foodstuffs. We live in ‘obesogenic environments,’ where fattening food is easily available and opportunities for physical activities are few. The problem,” Johansson continues, has been “conceptualized as an ‘obesity epidemic’.”[1]

Nutritional knowledge is promulgated through schools, magazines, TV and most parents and children know the importance of fruit and vegetables, for example.  However, “Numerous environmental factors influence a child’s FV [recommended servings of fruits and vegetables] intake,”[2] including “home availability and accessibility of FVs, … parental modelling of FV intake, parent-child feeding practices, child preparation skills, and family meals.”[3] Food consumption is a complex matter, and ‘good eating’ is much more than learning about healthy food, ‘it is about establishing a positive relationship with food’.”[4]

“Early experiences with food are crucial in developing children’s lifelong preferences, behaviours, and attitudes regarding food and eating. … All children’s food preferences are thought to be learned, with early childhood being the most significant period for laying the foundation for healthy dietary preferences. … the social environment plays an especially significant role in the development and maintenance of children’s nutritional behaviours.” [5]

[1] p26 Barbro Johansson et al. (2009) Nordic Children’s Foodscapes: Images and Reflections. Food, Culture & Society 12(1)March; pp25-51  [2] p130 Stephanie Heim et al. (2011) Can a community-based intervention improve the home food environment? Parental perspectives of the influence of the delicious and nutritious garden. Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior 43(2); pp130-134  [3] p130 Stephanie Heim et al. (2011) Can a community-based intervention improve the home food environment? Parental perspectives of the influence of the delicious and nutritious garden. Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior 43(2); pp130-134  [4] p27 Barbro Johansson et al. (2009) Nordic Children’s Foodscapes: Images and Reflections. Food, Culture & Society 12(1)March; pp25-51  [5] Meghan Lynch and Malek Batal (2011) Factors influencing childcare providers’ food and mealtime decisions: an ecological approach. Child Care in Practice 17(2)April; pp185-203

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About backyardbooks

This blog is a kind of electronic storage locker for ideas and quotes that inform my research... literary research into fiction for young adults (with a special focus on New Zealand fiction). Kiwis are producing amazing literature for younger readers, but it isn't getting the academic appreciation it deserves. I hope readers of this blog can make use of the material I gather and share by way of promoting our fiction. Cheers!
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