Getting kids to eat healthfully has always been a challenge for parents—apparently to the point of “trying anything.” In a new report published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, a team from the University of Chicago has analyzed how harnessing teenage rebellion can be used to motivate healthier eating.
According to Food & Wine the research team educated a a group of eighth graders on strategies that Big Food employs to manipulate consumers into making bad food choices. Namely through the use of addictive seasonings and targeted marketing to young children and people with low-incomes.
"We framed healthy eating as a way to 'stick it to the man'—we cast the executives behind food marketing as controlling adult authority figures and framed the avoidance of junk food as a way to rebel against their control.
Adolescent rebellion is by definition, temporary. It lasts through - well - adolescence. What happens once the teen rebellion ends? Do young adults return to their old eating habits as their anger at “the man” subsides? Do we honestly believe that demonizing food companies will result in sustainable behavior change?
We can't help but wonder about the effects that basic nutrition education would have on the same group. Imagine providing middle schoolers with nutrition education that demonstrates the effects that good food choices can have on quality of life and long term health. That's so much more than rebellion. That's revolution.