1. Introduction The purpose of this report is to analyse the 4 main types factors that affect the food selection of adolescents and how each of these factors affect their diets. As a result of examining various internet websites and books about this topic, this report describes the 4 types of factors that affect food selection and the factors that influence the food selection of teenagers the most.
Consuming food is vital for adolescents since they aren’t fully developed yet, and what they eat is influenced by various factors. The main types of factors are psychological, physiological, social, and economic factors, and each of them influence what choices people make when it comes to food. Over the past 20 years, teenagers have adopted the habit of consuming a lot of junk food, due to the influence of many economic, psychological, physiological and social factors. As time goes on, the factors that affect the food choices of adolescents may change.
Overview of social factors Social factors that affect food selection refer to the cultures and societies that adolescents live in, along with how the interaction with other people greatly influence the food choices that they make. One of the reasons why social factors has a significant influence on adolescents is because their attitudes and habits relating to food usually develop through the interaction with their peers, friends and families. Social factors that have a great impact on the food selection of adolescents are the media, and their peers.
2.1 Peer Influences A peer is a person that has the same social status, and is around the same age as another person. The influence of peers is the greatest in adolescence. the reason for this is because like fashion, trends come and go in the food industry. For adolescents, being ‘cool’ and being accepted among their peers is vital, so they usually follow the food trends that the majority of the group follow for that sake. Although, this causes them to disregard their parent’s influence on what they should and should not eat. In today’s society, teenagers are influenced by their peers to eat at popular fast food outlets such as Mcdonalds, since it’s a popular food trend among them. This affects them in a negative way since the food that is sold at these outlets can have poor nutritional values. This causes an increase in diet related diseases in teenagers such as type 2 diabetes, and according to the Department of Health and Aging, type 2 diabetes is becoming more common in younger age groups.
2.2 Media In affluent societies, the media plays a significant role in food selection for adolescents. This is because they are exposed to the thousands of food advertisements on a daily basis. There are advertisements nearly everywhere they go, such as on television, the internet, school buses, radios, and magazines, so adolescents will be tempted to eat the product that is being advertised. The negative effect of these advertisements is that they are advertising food that is high in sugar, salt, and fat so they aren’t ideal for meeting their nutritional requirements. The media is one of the many factors responsible for the unhealthy lifestyles in teenagers and according to the Department of Health and Aging, 25% of children and adolescents were either overweight or obese in 2007-08, and to this day, this percentage has increased.
2.3 Education Education about food and nutrients is essential for adolescents, since it helps them to become more knowledgeable and educated about their options when it comes to food selection and the nutritional requirements of their age group. Also, teenagers that are informed about this will most likely make better and wiser food choices than those who don’t, although this all depends on whether the person is able to apply the knowledge into their everyday lives. Furthermore, adolescents that have the knowledge and skills to prepare their own food are also more likely to make better and wiser food choices. The reason for this is because making a meal from scratch can prevent buying prepared meals from fast food outlets, and home-cooked meals have a higher nutritional value than preprepared meals.
Overview of psychological factors Psychological factors are linked with an individual’s emotions, and their thoughts. The psychological factors that affect a person’s food selection vary from individual to individual, since they are based on their lifestyle and childhood. They are also hard to describe and some factors even have a continuous influence on an individual (E.g. Beliefs, values.) while others can change each day. (E.g. Attitudes, self esteem). Psychological factors that are significant in the food selection of adolescents are beliefs, experiences and self-concept.
3.1 Self concept Self concept is how individuals feel about themselves (Also known as self esteem) and the way the see their body image. Self concept can change over time, or even a few times a day. E.g. A compliment can boost your self esteem. Over the past few years, people as young as 11 have started to become dissatisfied with their body image, especially females. The reason for this is because the media has presented teenagers with the beautiful, and talented people who have the ‘ideal’ body type, which has caused a decrease in self esteem, and the dissatisfaction with their body image. As a result of this, many teenagers have tried to get the ‘ideal’ body image by dieting, and the Department of Education and Child Development stated that ‘68% of 15 year old females are on a diet, of these, 8% are severely dieting’. Self concept is a reason why people diet, and it has a huge impact on food selection since it can influence teenagers to eat food that have a high nutritional values. Despite this, it can also lead to them eating next to nothing, which can potentially lead to life threatening eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa.
3.2 Beliefs A belief is an opinion that isn’t based on scientific proof, and they are often based on religion and cultural heritage. Many religious communities have placed restrictions on what their people can eat. (E.g. Hindu’s cannot eat beef because cows are sacred in their religion.) The reason why there are restrictions is because in the past, people believed that it would protect others from diseases, and poor hygiene. Beliefs are very significant, since they can influence eating habits. The reason for this is because adolescents usually follow the food beliefs of their own parents, so the food that they choose to eat would depend on that. For example, a teenager will most likely be a vegetarian if their parents are vegetarian.
3.3 Emotions Even though it may not seem like it, emotions play an important role in food selection, especially during adolescence. The strongest desire for food happens when people are emotionally sensitive, and most are not even aware of it. Emotional eating is when people consume food as a way to deal with their emotions, and teenagers usually use it as a way to suppress negative emotions, such as grief, sadness, anger, and stress. It can be caused when they go through depressing events in life, such as the loss of a loved one, boyfriend/girlfriend breakups, divorce of parents etc. When this happens, ‘comfort foods’ are consumed, which are foods that are usually high in fat, sugar, salt (For example, ice-cream, chocolate, candy, potato chips) and are generally not good for the health of teenagers if it’s constantly happening.
Overview of physiological factors Physiological factors affect the body’s craving (appetite), and need for food (hunger). The body needs a certain amount of nutrients from food in order for it to function properly, and to be healthy. The amount of nutrients required vary from person to person, and they are based on their age, gender, build, activity level and health. Even though teenagers should eat according to their nutritional requirements because they are still developing. Over the past few years, they usually eat according to what satisfies them.
4.1 Nutritional Requirements Nutritional requirements are the amount of minerals/vitamins an individual has to take in order to have a healthy lifestyle. The nutritional requirements of an individual depends on their life stage (Infant, child, adolescent, etc.), since each stage requires a different amount of nutrients. As adolescents, they are still developing so they need to have a higher calcium and protein intake (for bone and tissue growth), and carbohydrates (For energy). Gender plays in an important role in the nutritional requirements of adolescents. Females start to go through their menstrual period at this stage in life, so they require more iron to counter the blood loss during that time. They also need folate, because it decrease the chance of brain and spinal birth defects by 50-70% if they get pregnant at a later stage. Males on the other hand, they require more zinc in order to protect their prostate gland and more protein to maintain their muscle tissues, since they have a higher proportion of muscle tissue than females.
4.2 Aroma and Taste Aroma and taste are closely related. Plenty of food gives off a scent that can be tasted before the food is actually eaten.The taste and aroma of food is one of the most important factors when it comes to food selection. The reason for this is because it’s what determines what food is appetising, and what isn’t. For example, people wouldn’t eat something that has a bad odour. Adolescents tend to `choose the food they eat based on it’s taste, regardless of nutritional value and since junk food tends to be tastier than healthy food, the majority of teenagers eat junk on a daily basis.
4.3 Allergies/Food intolerance A food allergy is when the immune system reacts to a certain type of food and rejects it, where as a food intolerance is the inability to digest a certain type of food. If a teenager has a food allergy or intolerance, then it would affect their food choices, since they would have to ensure that the food they consume doesn’t contain the food that they’re allergic/intolerant to. When a person has If they were to consume food that they are allergic to, they would suffer from symptoms such as diarrhea, eczema,and asthma. Similarly, if a person were to consume food that they were intolerant to, it would cause symptoms such as migraines, breathing problems and diarrhea.
5. Overview of economic factors Economic factors relate to the food market and the costs. It is significant to food selection since the type of food that a person eats usually depends the cost, the market and the resources that are available to the person. Economic factors also determines whether people are able to eat the food they want, or the only the food that they can afford. For adolescents, they only can eat what their parents are able to afford and what they can afford while they’re not at home.
5.1 Cost of Food The cost of food is an important factor to consider. As an adolescent, what they eat at home relies on the income of their parents, since that determines the quality and type of the food that is bought. Also, teenagers usually don’t have a lot of money to spend on food while they’re out with friends. As a result of this, they usually have a habit of constantly eating at fast food outlets such as Mcdonalds because the food is cheap. Although this is convenient, it’s a bad habit because if junk food is constantly being consumed, they’re not meeting their nutritional requirements and can cause diet related diseases later on. It is estimated that roughly 9 in 10 teenagers eat junk food everyday.
6. Conclusion There are various factors that affect the food selection of adolescents. These factors are divided into four categories- Social, economic, psychological and physiological. They all affect adolescents in various ways, and are some affect them negatively (E.g. the media), by influencing them to take on bad eating habits. Despite this, there are also that affect them positively (E.g. Education) by encouraging them to have healthy eating habits.
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