Research article
Issue: № 8 (50), 2016

Макеева А.Г.

Кандидат педагогических наук, Институт возрастной физиологии российской академии образования



В статье представлены результаты исследования, цель которого - изучение поведения подростков 14-15 лет, связанного с питанием. На основании полученных данных выделены основные задачи, на решение которых должно быть направлено обучение правильному питанию.

Ключевые слова: поведение, питание, правильное питание, образовательные методики, профилактика, избыточный вес, ожирение.

Makeeva A.G.

PhD in Pedagogy, Institute of Developmental Physiology, Russian Academy of Education



Results of nutrition behavior study among 14-15 y.o. students are presented. The study allows to identify key challenges, which can be overcome with the help of nutrition education program aimed to teenagers. The main topics are prevention of obesity due to teaching students maintain a healthy energy balance, developing of positive attitudes towards healthy products in order to motivate students to consume them regularly, promoting school nutrition and development of teenager’s ability to make positive food choices themselves.

Keywords: nutrition, behavior, health nutrition, educational interventions, prevention, obesity, overweight.

Nutrition behavior studies nowadays are used in many spheres of non-communicable diseases prevention. They are very popular in the educational sphere too where they are usually conducted to evaluate the results of educational interventions aimed to different targets groups [1, 2]

One of the projects where such kind of wide-scale research is run every 3 years is Healthy Kids Program - the most popular nutrition educational program in Russia. Nutrition behavior studies are a very important tool to renovate the Program contents and improve the methods of nutrition education [4, 3].

But nutrition behavior studies are beneficial not only for ongoing programs. They can be very helpful in making a new program as well. The studies allow to reveal key issues that could be addressed by means of nutrition education and formulate the list of actual topics for the new target groups.


The research was conducted before the start of development of a new module of Healthy Kids Program (see above) aimed at 14-15 y.o. students.

The research involved 450 adolescents of 14-15 y.o. (456 girls and 516 boys) from two Russian regions. Information was collected through a questionnaire, developed by the specialists of Institute of Developmental Physiology. The questionnaire included two types of questions.

The first type of questions was focused on routine details of the day before the survey – student’s menu, number of meals, places for eating, physical activities, and daily schedule. The second types of questions was aimed to reveal general characteristics of students’ life – their awareness about healthy lifestyle, their taste preferences, interest in sport, what types of sport activities they prefer, their involvement in sport activities, etc.

The study results gave clear understanding of the key issues that could be reached with the help of nutrition education and main focuses of our new program.

The main characteristics of students’ lifestyle.

Students spent most of their time on sedentary types of activities (mainly on learning) having classes at school (6-7 hours) and doing homework (2-3 hours). Increased sedentary behaviors, caused by excessive school load are a serious risk factor of several diseases including overweight and obesity. How can nutrition education take part in reducing negative influence of sedentary lifestyle?

Nutrition Program should educate students about the need for maintaining a healthy weight and shape ideas about the energy of their ratio. Teenagers should know which products are high in calories, why they should not eat those products too often, which products are low in calories and can be consumed as snacks instead of energy food (yogurt, fruits, cereal bar and etc).

Unfortunately, students’ involvement in real physical activities is not enough. Only 32% of the respondents had sports or dancing class the day before the research and only 37 % of the students reported that they did sport or took dancing classes regularly (2-3 times a week).

Herewith, physical activities are popular among students. Most students mentioned that they liked to take part in school sport activities (school championships, contests and etc.) regularly and would like to do it more often.

So, most of our respondents don’t need additional promotion of sports; they just need opportunity to realize their real interest in sports. One of the real ways to do it is development of sport school environment (school sport clubs, extracurricular sports activities and etc.).

Students’ awareness about healthy life style. Students are well educated in the sphere of health nutrition – they know about health nutrition regime, ratio, rules of hygiene and etc.

These results were not surprising for us. Special information about healthy lifestyle is widely presented in Russian school curriculum – topics about nutrition are included in Biology, Natural History, Chemistry courses as well as in extracurricular activities.

So the level of students’ awareness about nutrition and healthy lifestyle is generally high. Do they need to get special nutrition education?  What role does students’ awareness play in their real nutrition?

Nutrition regime of students. Only 37% of the students asked had 4-5 meals the day before the research, 38% had 3 meals and 30% of the respondents had an absolutely unhealthy regime: they mentioned about 2 meals only. Lunch is the most common meal: all our respondents had lunch the day before the research.

Only 70% of the students had breakfast. 67% of our respondents mentioned dinner. Afternoon snack is skipped by most students, only 21% of respondents reported about the meal in their questionnaires.

What kind of educational interventions can be effective in this case? Important objective of nutrition Program is to teach teenagers plan their day in advance not to miss meals and eat regularly (to visit school canteen, take lunch box if they do not have time to eat at home or in school and etc). At the same time teachers and parents should be encouraged to control students’ nutrition too.

Places for eating. Home is the main place for student’s nutrition. All students had dinner at home, many of them had home lunch and breakfast. School is the second location where students eat - 38% of students ate at school canteen the day before research.

Despite the fact that only 7% of the students ate at a café the day before the research we should not underestimate the role of public nutrition for our target groups. 20% of our respondents reported that they ate in a café regularly (8% - every week and 12%- several times a month).

Most of the teenagers (88%) reported that they had pocket money for buying food and 65% bought some snacks in a school canteen or in supermarkets the day before the research.

So our respondents usually have lots of opportunities to choose their meals themselves that highlights the need to teach student to regulate their ration themselves. They should know how to choose healthy food for snack, to be able to clarify expiration date and evaluate nutrition value of products by label, to be familiar with laws protecting the rights of consumers.

Students menu. To learn more about the specifics of the students’ ration a special list of the most typical products and dishes (soup, meat, cereals, fish, dairy products, fresh vegetables and fruit, snacks) was included in the questionnaire. Students had to mark what they had eaten the day before the research.

It was revealed that the menu of quite a number of students did not include products which should be consumed daily according nutritionists’ recommendations - dairy products, soups, cereals, fresh fruit. It is of major concern that the popularity of vegetables and fish was minor - only 36% of the students ate vegetables and only 20% of them – fish.  At the same time 43% of the respondents reported consuming snacks (cheeps, cookies and etc).

Why is consumption of many healthy products and food by students not enough?

We asked students to mark the food they liked and disliked in the list of products and dishes.

There is a link between students taste preferences and specifics of their menu. Most popular products were mentioned by students as a part of their yesterday menu very often. At the same time such less popular products as fish and vegetables were mentioned only by 12% of students.

So lack of popularity of some healthy products is one of the factors restricting their consumption by students. Nutrition education should include interventions aimed to promote healthy taste preferences among students and form positive attitudes towards healthy food.

At the same time some healthy products insufficiently consumed by students (soup, dairy products) do not need any special promotion because they are popular enough among them. Our research highlighted a peculiar interconnection between the actual menu of our respondents and the place where they eat. Thus students who visited a school canteen the day before research are less likely to consume junk food and sweets, and more likely to eat soups, vegetables, dairy products in comparison with their peers who ate only at home or in a café.

Table 1 - Places for eating and students menu

Рroducts Students who did not eat in school canteen the day before research (n=312) Students who ate is school canteen the day before research (n=138) Significance level
Meat 89 94 N/S
Fruits 90 85 N/S
Soup 44 66 P<0,05
Dairy products 33 58 P<0,001
Junk-food 52 35 P<0,001
Vegetables 35 55 P<0,001
Fish 14 11 N/S

How can nutrition education make healthy food more available for our respondents? As we can see, school canteen is an effective source to provide teenagers with healthy and balanced diet. So, first of all, we should promote school nutrition among teenagers, motivate them to visit school canteen more often. Different educational activities can be used to achieve it: culinary master classes conducted by canteen staff, contest of students projects «Best design for our canteen», events like «Breakfast with celebrities» (famous people – artists, scientists, politics visit school and have breakfast with students) and etc.

To improve students’ diet special education interventions aimed at parents are needed to raise their interest in healthy nutrition and motivate them to control regime and ration of their children. The last point is of the most importance, because parents of teens do not pay enough attention to their children’s nutrition. Only 28% of the respondents mentioned that their nutrition was regularly controlled by their parents.

So effective educational interventions aimed to adolescents on five main goals:

  • Decreasing the risk of obesity by teaching students to analyze caloric value of their menu, reduce calorie-rich dietary components and maintain a healthy energy balance.
  • Developing of positive attitudes towards healthy products among students in order to motivate students to consume them regularly.
  • Promoting school nutrition among teenagers in order to improve students’ diet..
  • Designing special educational strategies for parents to increase their awareness about the benefits of healthy nutrition for their children.
  • Raising children’s determination to make positive food choices themselves and

  Improving their ability to select healthy food and follow healthy regime.


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