An Analysis of Dieting Methods, Fruit and Vegetable Intake, Weight Perceptions and Family Meals, in Female Adolescents

Nicola Lowles


OBJECTIVES: The overall aim of the study was to examine relationships between dieting, ethnic origin and fruit and vegetable intake in adolescent girls, and to determine any difference in fruit and vegetable intake and eating with the family during the week and at weekends.

SUBJECTS: A total of 823 female subjects participated in the study. The age range was between 12 - 16 years. 52.7% were White, 9.8% were Mixed race, 18.5% were Asian, 15.6% were Black and 2.1% were of another (Other) ethnic origin. All subjects attended low-income group schools in London and Coventry.

METHODS: Two separate visits by Investigators were made to the schools and subjects completed two questionnaires. The ‘Healthy Eating Questionnaire’ assessed subjects' personal details, meal patterns and fruit and vegetable intake. The ‘Diet Questionnaire’ was completed on the second visit and assessed self-perceptions of body weight, current dieting and methods of weight loss.

RESULTS: White girls had a higher vegetable intake than Black girls (p<0.001) and Mixed race girls had a higher vegetable intake than Asian girls (p=0.036) and Black girls (p<0.001). A significant difference (p<0.05) was found between both daily fruit and vegetable intake and eating with the family during the week. A significant difference was also apparent between daily vegetable intake and eating with the family at weekends.

The research highlights that adolescent females could be lacking in adequate nutritional intake, during a period when nutrient needs are high and when eating patterns for adulthood are being established. Research has demonstrated that children as young as 12 are restricting their energy intake. Results showed differences between ethnic origin groups and estimated vegetable intake. Eating meals with the family is strongly associated with an increase in fruit and vegetable intake in female adolescents.

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