It's good to talk: children's views on food and nutrition

MC McKinley, C Lowis, PJ Robson, Julie Wallace, M Morrissey, A Moran, Barbara Livingstone

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

102 Citations (Scopus)


Objective: To gain an insight into children's views about food and nutrition. Design: Data were collected in focus group discussions; two focus group sessions were undertaken with each school group. Setting: A total of 11 postprimary schools in Northern Ireland and England. Subjects: In all, 106 children aged 11-12-y-old (n=52 boys, n=54 girls). Results: Focus group transcripts were analysed using qualitative research methodology. Major barriers to healthy eating were taste, appearance of food, filling power, time/effort, cost, choice/availability, risk, rebellion, and body image/weight concerns. The main difference between sexes was in terms of motivating factors for eating well; girls tended to focus primarily on their appearance whereas boys appeared to be more influenced by sport. There was some mention of balance and variety within the focus group discussions, however, in practice, the children had a tendency to categorise foods as either `good' or `bad', `healthy' or `unhealthy'. Conclusions: This study has revealed a number of barriers to, and motivations for, healthy eating, which should be taken into account when planning nutrition intervention strategies aimed at children moving into adolescence. While it may be possible to immediately attempt to address some of the barriers identified in this study, for example, in nutrition education initiatives, other barriers ( such as the lack of available, attractive and affordable healthy foods in the school canteen) will prove more difficult to tackle without changes at the policy level. Overall, it appears that health promotion specialists have a major challenge ahead in order to encourage this age group to view healthy eating as an attractive and achievable behaviour. Sponsorship: Food Standards Agency, London, UK.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)542-551
JournalEuropean Journal of Clinical Nutrition
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - Apr 2005


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