An example of the type of food label about which
adolescent kids were tested in a study at the Children's Nutrition Research
Labels Help Middle-Schoolers Choose Healthier
Foods By Alfredo Flores November 27, 2006
Middle-school-age children are capable of understanding food labels
after an educational session, according to a recent study by a researcher at
the Children's Nutrition Research Center (CNRC)
in Houston, Texas.
The CNRC is operated by Baylor College
of Medicine in cooperation with
Texas Children's Hospital
and the Agricultural Research Service (ARS), the U.S. Department of Agriculture's chief
scientific research agency.
Many studies have looked at how informative food labels help adults
and college-age youth select more healthful foods, but little's been done to
see if improved understanding of label information could also aid
middle-schoolers. according to Keli Hawthorne, a pediatric dietitian at
During middle school, many children get their first chance to purchase
food and make their own choices at the school cafeteria, Hawthorne notes. It's
also the age group that has seen a doubling in obesity rates over the past two
decades, thus further emphasizing the need for nutrition education strategies
in this population.
Hawthorne wanted to see if a short, small-group educational program
could improve middle-schoolers' interpretation of nutrition facts on food
labels. Working with 34 Houston-area student volunteers aged 11 to 14, she gave
them basic information on the use of nutrition labels and quizzed them on
portion sizes and the nutrient contents of different foods.
The study's sample food labels included foods such as cookies, yogurt,
pizza, and potato chipsall products that middle school children are very
familiar with. For example, in studying potato chips, Hawthorne tested
participants on their understanding of serving sizes of regular chips compared
to lower-fat, baked chips by the same manufacturer. She also had them use
package nutrition labels to compare the fat in a serving size of each.
Hawthorne found that children of this age range are able to understand
how to interpret and use food labels to compare foods. The next step in this
area of research would be to determine if using food labels leads to healthier
food choices among middle-schoolers.
The study, which took place over six months in 2005, was published
earlier this year in the Journal of the
American Dietetic Association.