Healthy eating can be a challenge when millions of dollars are spent everyday trying to convince us to eat junk food. It turns out that telling the truth to teens may help them eat healthier. Informing teens about the financing and exploitation that goes into big food gets them to think critically about the marketing and rebel against it. Plus, starting healthy eating practice in the teenage years sets them up for a lifetime of health.
In the study, “A Values-Alignment Intervention Protects Adolescents from the Effects of Food Marketing,” published today in Nature Human Behaviour, Chicago Booth’s Christopher J. Bryan, University of Texas at Austin’s David S. Yeager, and Booth PhD candidate Cintia P. Hinojosa find that reframing how students view food-marketing campaigns can spur adolescents, particularly boys, to make healthier daily dietary choices for an extended period of time. The method works in part by tapping into teens’ natural desire to rebel against authority.
Among the two biggest findings in the experiment: The intervention produced an enduring change in both boys’ and girls’ immediate, gut-level, emotional reactions to junk food marketing messages. And teenage boys, a notoriously difficult group to convince when it comes to giving up junk food, started making healthier food and drink choices in their school cafeteria. “One of the most exciting things is that we got kids to have a more negative immediate gut reaction to junk food and junk food marketing, and a more positive immediate gut reaction to healthy foods,” said Bryan.
Teens today are doing something their parents didn’t do: act on the knowledge that climate change is happening. Boomers did a great job of gobbling many of the worlds resources and dumping carbon into the atmosphere, subsequent generations dealt with proving that to be true. Now the current generation of teens is sick of dealing with the trash of previous generations and is doing something about it. These teens are standing up for their future and are already having meaningful impact.
May they continue to find success while inspiring their elders!
“Teenagers like me have often wondered how to combat climate change,” McGregor recently tweeted. But he believes activism alone no longer works: “The ones who are speaking out must be the ones that change … and do the work themselves.”
It seems as though fearlessness among teenagers who haven’t yet reached voting age is one symptom of the cultural and environmental anxieties their generation is steeped in. Scientists agree that the world is fast approaching — and perhaps already past — key climate turning points, and that actions in the next few yearswill have centuries-long ripple effects. Combine that near-inevitability of radical environmental change with a federal government that holds climate denial as an official position — and you’ve got a generation that accepts radical political change as the only reasonable option.
“The powerful thing about youth is that I don’t have a hidden agenda,” says Margolin. By default, teenagers’ only vested interest is their future. “I don’t get paid for this, I’m not lobbying on behalf of anybody. I’m only doing this because it feels so urgent.”
Teenagers question assumptions and tend to rebel against societal norms, so why not get them to question the normal industrial food supply we have? If we do subtly guide teens to think that standard capitalist food practices should be questioned they end up rebelling by eating healthy! It turns out all one has to do to encourage healthy eating is to get teens to think about where their food comes from more than what does for our bodies.
“If the normal way of seeing healthy eating is that it is lame, then you don’t want to be the kind of person who is a healthy eater,” said David Yeager, co-author of the research from the University of Texas at Austin.
“But if we make healthy eating seem like the rebellious thing that you do, you make your own choices, you fight back against injustice, then it could be seen as high status.”