Kids' and Teens' Eating Habits Somewhat Better Than Expected
Mintel - October 21, 2008
It seems "Eat fresh" may ring truer to today's kids and teens than "Run for the border." A new survey from Mintel suggests adolescent's food perceptions and actual eating habits may not be as dire as many adults thought.
Asking why they eat what they eat, Mintel found that two in five (42%) kids and teens reach for foods that give them more energy. Over a third (35%) purposefully eat foods that are rich in vitamins and nutrients. Approximately a quarter try to eat foods that are low in fat and 22% look for low-in-sugar foods.
"The battle is half won," states Chris Haack, senior analyst at Mintel. "Kids understand that food gives them energy and improves their overall health. Now, the challenge is to motivate more young people to actively improve what, when and how much they eat—to place healthfulness above indulgence more frequently than not."
On the positive, Mintel found two-thirds (65%) of kids and teens say they eat dinner at home at least five times a week; 33% do so daily. Haack notes that better eating often starts at home, where parents can shape food preferences and habits. According to Mintel, only 13% of youngsters sit with the family for fewer than three dinners per week. "The perception that today's youth constantly eats alone, on-the-go and out of the home is simply wrong," states Haack.
Also, Mintel's research confirms that teens are especially receptive to healthy eating messages. When asked about their attitudes toward food, 66% of teens said they believed "eating gives you energy/vitality," while 61% said "it's important to eat a balanced diet." Two in five (41%) said they liked the trend towards healthier fast food.
Still, the number one fast food restaurant visited by youth is McDonald's, by a large margin above better-for-you alternatives like Subway. "Health and wellness campaigns have impacted kids' and teens' food perceptions, but they haven't completely changed their eating habits," comments Haack. "Companies need to find ways to reinvent home-based meals and energize healthy snacking, so today's youth can see the benefits of better nutrition and take action."
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention reported in May 2008 that kids' and teens' obesity levels seem to be leveling off, having shown no significant increases from 1999 to 2006.