Eating Habits of Teens

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eating habits of teens 2 The nutritional habits of teenagers are growing concerns today in many countries with rising obesity rates. Most adolescents and teens have poor eating habits such as skipping breakfast and meals, consuming excess soda and relying on fast food. Poor nutritional habits lead to weight gain as well as serious health risks, including obesity, heart disease and stroke. It is important to avoid these risks and set teenagers up for healthy lifelong habits by identifying the barriers to healthy eating. A walk through the food court of any mall confirms the worst reports about teens' eating habits. Kids share overflowing cartons of french fries, bite into cheeseburgers and dripping slices of pizza, and quench their thirst with jumbo cups of soda. I observed some teenagers in the food court of Shoppers World Mall at Brampton. What I observed was nothing out of the expected. Most of the teenagers preferred unhealthy fried food over healthy options like fresh juice or a soup. I also talked to some teenagers, hanging out in the food court after school. Some of the reasons that they told for having fast food included: Fast food is convenient and it fits their hustle bustle lifestyle. So fast food convenience is the number one reason teens turn to fast food to fill their empty bellies. According to a study, 63% eat it because it’s convenient & fast, while only 17%choose fast food because it’s satisfying. Some teenagers stated that they came to eat at the same fast food place in the food court because of the rewards offered by that place. After collecting a certain number of points they are rewarded. Teens are loyal, regular customers. They spend a significant portion of their disposable income on fast food, so reward them by implementing loyalty programs. Typically, industries with high purchase frequency and stiff competition adopt loyalty programs- but few fast food restaurants 3

have caught on. Implementing loyalty programs not only helps to set the brand apart, it can increase the likelihood of repeat customers and potentially drive frequency of visits. Another common answer that I got was that they get to spend time with their friends. Everyone wants to fit in! It is undeniable for anyone to state that they are not vying for the approval of someone or something, even in the slightest. These urges are strongest during our teenage years, which are also a time when one is not in complete control of the food entering the household. It is therefore up to the teenager to maintain their social reputation through consumption practices outside the home, in this case by purchasing a sandwich or drink with a trendy label. “Consumption practices, usually involving the purchase and display of commodities or ‘props’, are an important aspect of identity-making work (Warde 1994; Martens et al. 2004), and consuming or not consuming specific food item or products (brands) can act as a badge (Valentine 1999), marking teenagers as ‘fitting in’ or ‘sticking out’ of one social group or another” (Wills et al. 2009. pp53). Indeed, at this age, youngsters have increased independence in general and more freedom as far as their food choices are concerned (Rolfes and Whitney, 1996). Usually vulnerable, they often compare themselves to their friends and may alter their choices to conform to the behaviour of their peers. According to the most recent Canadian Community Health Survey, conducted in 2004 more than 26 percent of Canadian children and teenagers are overweight or obese. One thing that I noticed was that there are many schools around that mall, and that is a big factor behind these students hanging out in the mall or the food court. I think, “You are what you eat. You are, also, where you live,” and if you live in a place where there's a fast food restaurant or convenience store on 4

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