Factors Affecting Food Selection
Adolescence is the time of an individual’s life, in which the body changes drastically. It is a time of physical, psychological, cognitive, emotional and social development. This occurs during the ages of 13-19 and even to the age of 21. During this time frame, children begin developing their adult characteristics, and new roles in life. In this time of radical change to the body, it is important to maintain a healthy diet to avoid various serious eating disorders, such as: Obesity, coronary heart disease, cancer, stroke, type 2 diabetes and many more.
As the body begins to grow larger, more energy is required to maintain it. Therefore an increase in food consumption is key sign that development is taking place. So as previously stated, a healthy diet is required to aid adolescence and promote growth. But what is eating healthy? It is recommended that an individual going through the adolescent changes in the body consumes three meals a day, with snacks throughout. It is recommended that there is an increase in fibre within the diet, and a decrease in salts. Decreases in high sugar drinks are also recommended, and water should be consumed more regularly.
An adolescent should also avoid red meats and begin eating more white meats and fish, as well as choosing more lean cuts. Eating carbohydrates is also a key part in promoting the development of a teenager. All of these recommendations should also be followed by a regular exercise routine to maintain health, and continue promoting development. Although there are guides put in place to ensure that the basic dietary requirements of an adolescent there are many factors that affect the choices of the individual, and the basic needs of the body can sometimes be unmet.
These factors can fall under 4 groups, social affecting the choices most heavily. Peer pressure falls under this group and affects a great number of teens. These affects can lead to many disorders, such as anorexia, and on the other end of the scale, obesity or diabetes. The other types of factors that can affect an individual’s growth during adolescence, these include physical factors, psychological factors and economic factors. During this time of an individual’s life, it can be hard to track and maintain their intake in food consumption, as they eat most of their meals out of home, compared to children.
For example, when teens go out to the mall with their friends and are limited to the places they can purchase food from. There choices are further limited by peer pressure, such as if the majority of people wish to go to a specific food outlet, it is more likely that the whole group will follow and also purchase from there. Also being a teen means you have a limited supply of money, so usually fast food is very popular for adolescent teens, though this is not healthy and does not have all the nutrients to support a growing teen.
Also, if an individual is on a diet they are more likely to go to an outlet that sells healthier options of food, such as sushi. These are just a few ways that factors can affect each other. But the factors on their own can be highly influential on food choices by adolescents, both male and female. Psychological: Psychological factors influence your food choices from a mental and emotional point of view (How you think, how past experiences have affected your judgment etc. ).
The way you think and feel heavily affects your food choices, and can be altered through experiences, personal interests, passions, habits and values as well as the lifestyle of the individual. The way in which these factors affect you can be very personal, and therefore vary from person to person. For example, a person whom works at a slaughter house may be less likely to eat meat than a normal consumer who isn’t involved in the process between the animal and the product they purchase in store.
Some of these values people hold can also derive from an individual’s culture and background, which can be influenced heavily on the religion of the person or family. People all around the world have to follow food restrictions as part of their religious culture, though these restrictions do not stop an individual from following a healthy and balanced diet. For example, the Jewish/Islam do not eat pork or anything from the sea, unless it has fins and scales as they have a very strong belief that these foods are ‘unclean’. Other religions could even require a fasting, where food isn’t eaten for a certain amount of time. These religious demonstrations are often to develop spiritual discipline. Some of these religious beliefs are extremely strong, and if not followed can lead to punishment. Though an individual’s beliefs can be challenged and changed, unlike values, which remain unchanged. Values are the strong feeling carried by an individual which remain unique to them and are personal. Values are so strong that they cause an individual to take action and change their behavior. As previously stated, values can be affected by the background of the family, or the upbringing they received.
Experiences can also alter an individual’s values, though being young, an adolescence values and beliefs will still be changing up until adulthood. An example of values affecting am individual’s food choices, are people who are conscious about the environment, and may steer away from purchasing over packaged foods. Attitudes adolescence carry, change their behavior towards their food choices, some of these attitudes include their class, or what standard of food they feel is right for them. This idea of status does not really affect teens, as they generally eat the same foods.
Habits that an adolescence has built over their early life, will carry through their teen years, and even their adulthood. A habit is a process that we do without thinking, as if it is a natural process to us. Sadly, for a large percentage of young individuals, habits are unhealthy, and need to be identified in order to adapt our diets and lead a healthier life. Some habits are quite simple, but over time lead to excess intake, or in some cases, under nutrition. Habits can be simple things, such as using too much salt, sauce or even drinking excess soft drinks, rather than water.
The biggest affecting factor to teens in the 21st Century, is self-concept. The way in which an individual sees themselves, and how others will judge them by how they look. One of the saddest things of our generation, is that people do judge others on how they look, pushing this idea of self-concept out of proportions. Being unhealthily skinny, is the new healthy, though this is not true. This factor is driven by peer pressure, and changes the way we picture ourselves. We judge ourselves on how we believe we look, how rich/poor we are, how well we dress ourselves, our talents etc.
From child hood, we begin to develop our idea of our self-concept, and from the age of 11, we become more dissatisfied with our bodies and will continue to until out mid-twenties. Self-concept affects women more than it does men, though our ideas of self-concept are constantly changing. An issue in Australia is that of over eating. This can be due to the fact that the individual is simply bored, and eating is helping occupy the time. Other reasons could be the mood of the individual, or the emotional state they are in at the time. Teens choose to “comfort” eat, depending what mood they are in.
This can help fill the emptiness they feel. However, others choose not to eat if they are in a negative emotional state. All of these can lead to various diseases, and disorders, ranging from obesity, to anorexia and bulimia. Physiological: Physiological factors, are the factors in which affect our desire and need of food physically. There are many ways in which this factor can affect our choices of food. Hunger being one of them, and during the time of adolescence, an individual will become increasingly hungry, as the body requires more energy and essential minerals/nutrients to both function correctly, and promote growth.
Hunger, however, can be affected by appetite. One of the issues in teens, is of over-eating, where even though they are full and no longer feel hungry, they desire more food. Appetite can be triggered in various ways, such as the scent or smell of appealing foods, or even the mentioning of food in a conversation. The difference between hunger and appetite however, are that if appetite is left unsatisfied, the craving of food will eventually go away, whilst hunger will still leave you with the feeling of pain and weakness.
In order to keep a healthy body, we must balance our nutrition, with our level of activity. For example, an individual whom stays home and plays video games, should avoid eating high sugar foods, or high saturated fats. While an individual who regularly partakes in sporting events should keep their hydration regulated, and eat a balance of simple and complex carbohydrates, depending on their post/pre event schedule. They should also eat the vitamins and minerals they require to repair the body after intense exercise.
Adolescents especially, must pay close attention to their intake, as they need to ensure they are getting enough of their requirements to both cover for their level of activity, and enough to promote their growth. Economic: Economic factors affect an individual’s choices in food selection globally. Economic factors affect teens greatly in 3rd world countries, as many adolescents go their day-to-day lives under nutrition. This is due to the fact that they cannot afford to purchase the food that they require, or lack the required skills, utilities, tools and land to be self-sufficient.
They are unable to function to full capacity, reducing their ability to learn at school. This leads to the individual having a low paying job. Also, the lack of essential nutrients leads to their immune systems being weaker, reducing the efficiency of their work. In turn, this reduces their income, and the cycle starts over as the next generation of the population are born. Economic factors affecting adolescents in Australia however, are not as drastic, or it may seem this way. Though Australia seems like a rich country, we often overlook the issue of poverty, as we do not see it as a big issue.
However, the Australian Council of Social Service and the Social Policy Research Centre, estimated that 12. 8% (2,265,000 People) of the Australian population live below the poverty line, 575,000 of these people are adolescents. These statistics are eye opening, as the issue of poverty is very well hidden within Australian society. It Although generally, the population of Australia, has enough money to have the required intake they require, and more often, more than they require. This is causing an increase in overweight Australians, and in many cases, obesity.
This is even happening in the teens of Australia, though not always the adolescents fault. The parent may only have enough money to purchase unhealthy foods, or may simply just not know any better. According to a study by the Australian Securities and Investment Commission, the average household with an adolescent child, spends $314 a week on food and drink. Shockingly, a study by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, found that only 5% of Australians aged 12-24 met the dietary guidelines in 2007 and 2008. So what economic factors affect a teens food choices?
The cost of food is one of the biggest contributors to an individual’s choices. When a teen goes out with his friends, he is more likely to buy the $2 cheese burger from McDonalds, than the $10 sushi. Generally, the unhealthy options are cheapest, as they are easy to produce and do not include and high quality ingredients. The price of food affects what the individual will purchase, and also the amount of the item that will be purchased. The place of purchase also affects the choices made by the customer. As stated above, a teen is more likely to buy fast food, over purchasing quality, healthier options, due to the significant price differences. The availability of foods also affects the choices made, as if an item is not in season, the price will be much higher, as the supply is limited and the demand greater. So during different seasons, a teen may be more likely to choose one food over anther, depending on its availability. Social: The societies in which we live in today, all have an effect on our food choices. Not just our own society, but society’s world-wide, spread their own culture which inevitably alters our choices on our dietary intake.
Cultures all around the world spread their traditions and heritage, selling their foods where it would not normally be found. In our society, those foods are ‘exotic’ and exciting. These exotic foods being exciting in nature, attract adolescents, as they feel the need to experiment. Teenagers have an increased interest in experimenting different foods, unlike childhood where the individual can be found fussy. Some examples of social foods include Thai, sushi, Mexican, Italian etc. Adolescents not only have an increased interest in trying these socially adapted foods, but they also like to socialize while doing so.
It is not uncommon for a group of adolescents to go out for dinner together, generally to these more exotic outlets. As previously stated, the sad truth is that we do live in a society that does judge us on what we look like, what we wear, our personalities, and even what we eat. This adds pressure to teens when they choose where they wish to purchase their meal. The media in the 21st Century, has had the biggest input on all of the factors affecting an adolescents food choices. The media places many pressures on us, such as how we should look, as they show half starved ‘models’ on TV, and even where we should eat.
By heavily advertising certain food outlets, we are being subtly brainwashed, and have an increased interest in eating from the advertised outlet. We are exposed the food media in a variety of ways, such as TV, newspapers, radio, the internet, advertisements before a movie starts, and even advertisements during a movie. When a character in a movie drinks, or eats on camera, they always have an element of advertising, whether it be part of a logo, or even the brand somehow fitted into the script.
Teens enjoy going to the movies with their friends for a social outing, so these forms of advertisements heavily affect a teens food choices. The way in which food is advertised, gives a sense of happiness, health and fun, even though quite often this is not the fact, as food is often advertised with very low prices. It seems very appealing to a teen, who probably does not have enough money to be buying the more expensive, healthier alternatives. People’s lives today, are much busier than they once were (School, homework, assignments, part time jobs etc.) leading to an increase of informality in the consumption of food at home. Where once the family would gather for a social meal, and engage in conversation whilst eating a well prepared meal, they now grab something quick and easy from a take-away venue. This not only leads to a decrease in social skills, but also a decrease in general health, as unhealthy food options are consumed. All teens long to belong, or to feel accepted, and a great way to do this is through food. Food for adolescents is a social occasion, where relationships can be built and strengthened.
The issue with this, is that peer-pressure is one of the biggest affecting factors of food choices for teens. Therefore they are more likely to follow their friend’s diet, rather than one their parents brought them up with. The choices they follow are more likely to be unhealthy. To conclude, there are many factors that change the way an adolescent thinks about food, which in turn adapt and change their choices of food. These food choices can impact their lives positively, though more often negatively. The negative consequences need to be avoided to lead a healthy, stable life.
Adolescents need to pay more attention to their dietary intake, and need to be aware of the factors that influence their food choices, and not be overcome by them. An adolescent needs to put into mind, that their body is growing, and they need to help this development by balancing their diet, and accordingly, their activity level. As Australia is becoming a ‘bigger’ country, both in population and average weight, the problem of over eating must be dealt with. Through correct education of dietary intake, we can change the worrying increase in the average size of the population. Although under eating must not be ignored either.