Most young US adults do not meet the key dietary targets for Americans, primarily because they are too dependent on fast food and convenience food, according to research by the University of Minnesota.
Published in this month’s issue of the Journal of the American Dietetic Association, the new study reveals that nutrition education needs to extend beyond the current focus on children of school age.
Lack of key nutrients
According to the researchers, the majority of university students or young adults who have just left high school have diets lacking in key nutrients because they rarely eat meals prepared at home.
Out of around 1 500 people surveyed, aged between 18 to 23, those who reported purchasing their own foods and preparing meals at home were found to eat less fast food, more fruits and vegetables and have a better overall diet quality than those not involved in cooking their own meals.
Led by Nicole Larson, the researchers found that 31 percent of those surveyed who reported high involvement in meal preparation also consume five servings of fruits or vegetables daily, compared with 3 percent of those who reported very low involvement in meal preparation.
And 18 percent of the ‘high participation’ group met guidelines for consuming servings of deep-yellow or green vegetables, compared with just 2 percent of the ‘very low involvement’ group.
Dietary behaviours assessed included intakes of total fat, saturated fat, calcium, fruits, vegetables, deep yellow and green vegetables, grains and whole grains.
Reasons for inadequate diets
Main reasons for the inadequate diets of people in this age group include lack of cooking skills, money to buy food, and time available for food preparation.
Overall, the findings reveal the importance of conveying nutrition information to adolescents and young adults, and suggest that the nation’s current focus on promoting healthy eating in schools needs to be extended to include universities.
Indeed, the study’s authors suggest that intervention research is necessary to determine what kinds of programmes, policies, or environmental changes might increase the participation of young adults in preparing healthy foods. - (Decision News Media, December 2006)
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