Trends - Food Choices

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  Attitudes to healthy eating and weight control 1983-2007

The following is a summary of a report available from SHEU (£10 incl. p&p).

Using new data, from over 548,000 young people, we are updating the Trends reports that have data from 1983.
Recent results confirm the trend we have observed each year in our annual publications. The peak of wanting to lose weight may have been reached for the 14-15 year old females and may continue to hover around the 58% average. We have shown each year that far more older females want to lose weight (57% in 2007) compared with the number that are overweight (12% in 2007).
Interestingly the data show that more 14-15 year old females, in recent years, are happy with their weight as it is compared with earlier years.

Table 1. 14-15 year old females
% who ate school lunch and miss breakfast
Type of schoolday lunch
Nothing for breakfast
 
1994
2007
School cafeteria
25%
14%
School set lunch
3%
14%
Packed lunch
25%
23%
Takeaway or shop
12%
6%
Went home
12%
4%
Did not have any lunch
25%
40%
Table 2. 14-15 year old females
Attitude to weight and having nothing for breakfast
Attitude to weight
Nothing for breakfast
 
1994
2007
Would like to put on weight
13%
14%
Would like to lose weight
20%
18%
Happy with weight
14%
10%
The main items of interest in Table 1 are the similarity (around 25%) of those reporting nothing for breakfast and having a packed lunch at school and, in 2007, the rise to 40%, from 25% in 1994, of those having no breakfast or schoolday lunch.
In Table 2, the similarities in the data from 1994 and 2007 are noteworthy. Around 19% of 14-15 year old females, who responded in 1994 and 2007 to having ‘nothing for breakfast’, also expressed a desire to lose weight.
Table 3. 14-15 year old females - Attitude to weight and worrying about how they look
Attitude to weight
Never worry about looks
Worry a little about looks
Worry a lot about looks
 
1994
2007
1994
2007
1994
2007
Would like to put on weight
8%
12%
41%
36%
51%
52%
Would like to lose weight
3%
5%
29%
29%
68%
66%
Happy with weight
9%
14%
49%
48%
43%
38%

Table 3 shows connections between questions about worrying about how I look and attitude to weight. The highest percentages (around 67%) relate to those 14-15 year old females that worry a lot about their looks and would like to lose weight - however, there is little differnece between 1994 and 2007.

The report, "Trends:Young People and Food Choices" covers 13 topics: Nothing at all to eat for breakfast, cooked breakfast, cereal for breakfast, just a drink for breakfast, had no schoolday lunch, ate school lunch, ate a packed lunch, went home for lunch, ate fresh fruit on most days, ate chips or roast potatoes on most days, ate crisps on most days, consider health when choosing food, want to lose weight.

For further information about the trends data please email: david.mcgeorge@sheu.org.uk

 

ORDER publications

  1. SHEU is an independent research, survey and publishing company and the 'Young People into ...' series of reports are based on the work of one of its divisions - The Schools Health Education Unit. The Unit provides reliable baseline data for local needs assessment to inform plans in health, education and care.
  2. The accumulated databank from the hundreds of school surveys we support each year, involving tens of thousands of young people, is a valuable resource of information and provides many opportunities for research. But we caution against simple reporting and interpretation of our figures as being from 'a national survey'.
  3. In 2014 we compared the profile of the schools in our data sets with what we can see in the country as a whole (see link), and we were pleasantly surprised by the similarity.  This confirms what we concluded in 2004 through a similar study: that the SHEU data sets are reasonably well-matched to the national population of schools.