Building healthy eating habits in boys

Most boys love to eat and when growth spurts are about to hit they manage to ingest seemingly endless supplies of food – but are they getting the right foods and key messages and skills to help them develop healthy eating habits?

A recent study from the University of Adelaide found Australian children watching free-to-air television are being inundated with junk food advertising on a daily basis.

The study, which digitally compiled advertising data from one Adelaide television channel over the course of 2016 (recording 30,000 hours – including 500 hours of advertising), found children were subjected to nearly two and half times more junk food advertising than healthy food at peak child viewing times.

University of Adelaide Associate Professor Lisa Smithers said overall children were exposed to twice as much unhealthy food advertising as healthy food advertising.

“Diet-related problems are the leading cause of disease in Australia, and the World Health Organisation has concluded that food marketing influences the types of foods children prefer to eat, ask their parents for and ultimately consume,” A/Prof. Smithers said.

“Australian health and nutrition experts agree that reducing children’s exposure to junk food ads is an important part of tackling obesity and there is broad public support for stronger regulation of advertising to protect children,” A/Prof. Smithers said.

Learning skills to cook and create healthy, nutritious meals is just as important as understanding what are healthy and unhealthy foods according to a New Zealand research team.

University of Auckland researchers have identified a strong connection between learned cooking in young adulthood and long term benefits to health and nutrition.

Researchers conducted a longitudinal study which tracked perceived adequacy of cooking skills, frequency of home cooking and inclusion of vegetables in main meals – the research was published in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behaviour.

Lead author Jennifer Uter said the research highlighted the impact learning cooking skills could have on healthy eating in adulthood.

“However, the impact of developing cooking skills early in life may not be apparent until later in adulthood when individuals have more opportunity and responsibility for meal preparation,” Ms Uter said.

Learning cooking skills in childhood helps children to understand the difference between healthy and unhealthy foods, learn how to cook different foods and gain added maths and literacy skills when working with recipes.

Parents are encouraged to include kids in the kitchen, giving them exposure to cooking processes and different foods.

Creating age-appropriate opportunities for boys to help in the kitchen helps them to develop awareness of good nutrition and can inspire them to try new foods and create their own healthy meals to share with family and friends.