Perceptions of healthy eating amongst Indian adolescents in India and Canada
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INTRODUCTION: Dietary patterns have contributed to the rising prevalence of overweight and obesity among Indian adolescents. Yet there are limited studies on their perspectives on healthy eating. The purpose of this study was to understand perceptions and attitudes of Indian-origin adolescents in India and Canada that may contribute to healthy eating behaviour. METHODS: Qualitative data collection and analysis of 13 focus group discussions (FGD) was conducted among 34 boys and 39 girls (total number of participants: 73) of different weight and socioeconomic status (SES) in rural and urban India, and urban Canada aged 11-18 years. RESULTS: All adolescents perceived homemade foods, and foods high in vitamins, minerals and fiber as healthy. Rural Indian adolescents also identified contaminant-free food as important. Opinions differed regarding the health value of consuming meat, and amongst Canadian adolescents, the health impact of Western versus Indian diets. Identified benefits of healthy eating included improved energy for Indians, and disease prevention for Canadians and urban Indians. Identified barriers across all settings included peers; and availability, access and affordability of unhealthy foods. Urban Indians and Canadian girls also reported academic stress and lack of time as barriers. Canadian girls reported limited parental supervision during mealtimes as an additional barrier. Facilitators to healthy eating included parents, friends and personal preferences for healthy foods. CONCLUSION: This study suggests potential targets for family-based and school-based education programs and policies to improve dietary habits of Indian and Indo-Canadian adolescents which include, culturally focused nutrition education and guidelines, academic stress management strategies, parental education, food hygiene regulations and restriction on the sale and advertising of unhealthy foods.
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