Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Getting a Pass in Nutrition - but Still Passing the Crisps

Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Getting a Pass in Nutrition - but Still Passing the Crisps

Article excerpt

Learning about food doesn't change bad habits, study finds

Lessons in healthy eating teach children everything they need to know about good nutrition - but make barely any difference as to whether or not they put it into practice, according to new research.

Children prefer the foods they are brought up eating at home, regardless of how much they are taught about what is and is not healthy, the study finds.

Since 2013, "instilling a love of cooking" in primary pupils has been a compulsory part of the national curriculum. In September last year, cookery lessons were made mandatory, with the aim of teaching children where their food comes from, and how to cook and eat healthily.

But, in findings that may stick in the throat of healthy food campaigners such as Jamie Oliver, a new Russian study (bit.ly/HealthyEatingReport) concludes that pupils' awareness of the importance of healthy eating and exercise has little impact on whether they follow through on the advice.

Alexandra Makeeva, of the Moscow-based Russian Academy of Education, studied the effects of nutrition education on 729 children aged between 8 and 12. Roughly half the children were given lessons in healthy eating and the importance of exercise; the other half were not.

Varied menu

Dr Makeeva found that - unsurprisingly - the level of awareness about what constitutes good nutrition was higher among those who had been offered the lessons. These children were better able to answer accurately questions about diet regimes and rules of hygiene than their counterparts who had not been given any nutrition education.

Dr Makeeva then asked the children to tell her what their favourite food was. The lists were almost identical for children who had been given lessons in nutrition and those who had not.

The most popular types of food among both groups were potato dishes, soup, pasta, meat dishes and sweets. None of the children ate enough fish, fruit or vegetables.

"Thus nutrition education did not radically change the typical food preferences among children," Dr Makeeva writes, in an article in the latest edition of the journal Education and Health. "The most favourite food is determined mainly by social and economic characteristics of families - presence of particular types of products on a family menu, family culinary traditions and so on. …

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