Academic journal article Iranian Journal of Public Health

Iranian Female Adolescent's Views on Unhealthy Snacks Consumption: A Qualitative Study

Academic journal article Iranian Journal of Public Health

Iranian Female Adolescent's Views on Unhealthy Snacks Consumption: A Qualitative Study

Article excerpt


Background: Given the increasing prevalence of obesity among Iranian adolescents and the role of consumption of unhealthy snacks in this issue, interventions that focus on factors influencing food choice are needed. This study was designed to delineate factors associated with unhealthy snack use among female Iranian adolescents.

Methods: The theory of Planned Behavior served as the framework of the study. Qualitative data were collected via nine focus group discussions in two middle schools (6th to 8th grades) in a socio-economically diverse district in the city of Tehran in spring 2008. The study sample included 90 female adolescents aged 12-15 years. The sampling strategy was purposive method. Data analyzed using the "framework" method.

Results: Major factors identified by the respondents were taste, peer pressure, parental influence, easy access to unhealthy snacks, limited availability of healthy snacks, appeal of snacks, habit, high price of healthy snacks, and media advertisements. Nutritional value and healthiness was not one of the first priorities when buying snacks, as adolescents thought it was too early for them to worry about illness and adverse consequences of eating junk foods.

Conclusions: For developing culturally sensitive evidence-based interventions that can motivate adolescents to choose healthy snacks, a broad range of factors should be taken into account.

Keywords: Adolescent, Snack, Qualitative research, Iran


Childhood obesity and overweight is one of the most serious public health challenges of the 21st century that is steadily increasing both in developed and many low- and middle-income countries (1, 2). Indeed, today more than 155 million children worldwide are overweight or obese (3). Changes in diet and physical activity have led to an increase in obesity in the developing world, particularly among children (4). The dietary patterns of children have been affected by the globalization of fast foods in many of countries undergoing nutrition transition (5).

Additionally, even as the gross national products of these countries increase, the burden of obesity is being shifted towards individuals with lower socioeconomic status (SES) (6). The changes in the diets and physical activity patterns, and the increasing prevalence of obesity in some lowerand middle-income countries is occurring at a great speed and at earlier economic and social stages of development (7). Thus, in these countries, there is a need for the prevention of the adverse health consequences of this shift, including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and cancer (4, 7, 8).

Iran is the most populated country in the Middle East (9). The occurrence of nutrition transition in the country is an important health concern, which has lead to the prevalence of obesity and dietrelated diseases among the Iranian population, particularly in urban areas and especially among young women (10, 11). Of the approximately 70 million people living in Iran, nearly 18 million (27%) are adolescents (12). A recent national study on the prevalence of nutritional problems among Iranian students aged 6-18 yr, which was conducted among a representative sample of 21,111 children from urban and rural areas, suggests the beginning of an epidemic in childhood obesity (13, 14). Additionally, this study revealed unhealthy dietary habits among Iranian children and adolescents, including the consumption of salty, fatty, or sweet snacks, and also a low intake of healthy foods, particularly fruits, vegetables, and dairy products (14).

An unhealthy diet, including snacks in particular, are dominant factors contributing to overweight and obesity among children and adolescents (15, 16). Research conducted in other countries has identified a number of risk factors for unhealthy weight and/or diet among school-aged children and adolescents, including: physical inactivity (17- 18), unhealthy eating patterns(16), excessive use of television (19), high soft drink consumption (20), breakfast skipping (13, 17, 18), and inappropriate frequency of family meals and home food environment (21). …

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