Young adults who prefer local foods likely to make healthier choices
University of Minnesota School of Public Health researchers have found that young people who prefer organic, local, and sustainable foods are more likely to make healthier food choices. The researchers found the relation applies to young people broadly, regardless of socioeconomic or demographic status.
The study is led by Jennifer E. Pelletier, M.P.H., who partnered with University of Minnesota School of Public Health Epidemiology and Community Health researchers Melissa N. Laska, Ph.D., R.D., Dianne Neumark-Sztainer, Ph.D., M.P.H., and Mary Story, Ph.D., R.D. The study appears in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. A copy of the article can be found here.
The researchers conducted a cross-sectional study, which examined the characteristics and dietary behaviors of 1,201 students at a two-year community college and a four-year public university in the Minneapolis and St. Paul area. The participants reported low, moderate, or high importance on alternative food production practices.
“Almost half of the young adults placed moderate to high importance on alternative production practices of food,” said Pelletier. “And no differences were found by race/ethnicity or socioeconomic status in this sample.”
Women, young people aged 25 years and older, vegetarians, and those living outside their parent/family home reported the highest importance on alternative production practices.
Compared to those who placed low importance on these practices, those who placed high importance on alternative production practices also consumed:
• 1.3 more servings of fruits and vegetables
• More dietary fiber, fewer added sugars and less fat
• Breakfast approximately 1 more day per week
• Fast food half as often
The study’s findings suggest that nutrition-focused messaging around social and environmental implications of food production practices can be well received by this age group.
“Registered dietitians and other nutrition educators should start incorporating these topics into health-promotion efforts or college health courses,” suggests Pelletier. “We have an opportunity to encourage healthy eating without talking about nutrition directly, but rather by emphasizing alternative production practices to improve overall dietary quality.”