OBJECTIVE: To explore the concepts of healthy eating and to identify the barriers and facilitating factors for dietary behaviour change in adolescents.
DESIGN: A qualitative study involving twelve focus groups.
SETTING: Two secondary schools in the district of Hulu Langat in Selangor, Malaysia.
PARTICIPANTS: Seventy-two adolescents aged 13-14 years.
RESULTS: Adolescents had some understanding regarding healthy eating and were able to relate healthy eating with the concepts of balance and moderation. The adolescents' perceptions of healthy and unhealthy eating were based on food types and characteristics, cooking methods and eating behaviours. Facilitators for healthy eating were parents' control on adolescents' food choices, feeling concern about own health and body, being influenced by other's health condition, and knowledge of healthy or unhealthy eating. On the other hand, barriers for healthy eating were the availability of food at home and school, taste and characteristics of foods, and lack of knowledge on healthy or unhealthy foods.
CONCLUSIONS: The findings contribute to a better understanding of the adolescents' concept of healthy eating, as well as the facilitators and barriers to practising healthy eating. Future interventions should include a method of promoting the immediate benefits of healthy eating, the way to cope with environmental barriers for healthy eating, and increasing the availability of healthy food choices at home and in the school environment. The health and nutrition education programmes should also focus on educating parents, as they can be role models for adolescents to practise more healthful behaviours.
* Title and MeSH Headings from MEDLINE®/PubMed®, a database of the U.S. National Library of Medicine.