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Gender Perspectives on Adolescent Eating Behaviors: A Study on the Eating Attitudes and Behaviors of Junior Secondary Students in Hong Kong

Lai Yeung, Wai-ling Theresa
Journal of nutrition education and behavior 2010 v.42 no.4 pp. 250-258
body image, education programs, breakfast, cooking, girls, middle schools, nutrition information, adolescent nutrition, adolescents, nutrition education, body weight, middle school students, dietary recommendations, food intake, home food preparation, gender differences, cooking instruction, food choices, vegetables, boys, nutrition knowledge, China
Objective: This research aimed to investigate the eating attitudes and behaviors of junior secondary students in Hong Kong, with a specific focus on possible gender differences. Design: A survey was conducted in 2005 to solicit data about participants' food knowledge, eating attitudes and behavior, perceptions of cooking skills and body weight, and related factors influencing food choice. Setting: Twenty-three secondary schools located in different district areas of Hong Kong. Participants: The sample was composed of 836 students (41% male, 59% female) aged 11-18 years selected by random sampling. Analysis: Cross-tabulation analyses were used to compare the responses by gender. Results: Regardless of gender, less than half of the sample ate breakfast every day, and their consumption of fruits and vegetables was below recommended daily intakes. No significant differences were observed between respondents' eating habits and levels of food knowledge.Female students were more weight conscious than male students. Dissatisfaction about body weight was common among normal and underweight students. Cooking skills were generally valued as important life skills by both genders, though cooking skills were seen to be more relevant for girls. Conclusions and Implications: School nutrition education in Hong Kong should be designed to appeal to boys as well as girls, and effective implementation of nutrition education programs should inculcate healthful eating habits and sound cooking skills and address the needs of students with reference to gender differences. A more diversified approach could be employed through formal and informal curricula, prioritizing cooking skills and food advertising literacy in the curriculum.