Buying locally farmed, organic, sustainably produced food is so hot right now. The alternatively produced food trend has really taken off over the past decade, and now researchers at the University of Minnesota School of Public Health have found that young people who prefer such foods are also more likely to make healthier food choices.
Furthermore, the researchers found the relation applies to young people broadly, regardless of socioeconomic or demographic differences.
Previous studies have shown public concern about issues related to food production has increased in recent decades, though limited evidence has been available on the relationship between preferences for alternatively produced food and dietary quality or nutritious value.
Researchers looked at the characteristics and dietary behaviors of 1,201 college students in the Minneapolis and St. Paul areas who reported placing low, moderate or high importance on alternative food production practices.
“Almost half of the young adults we surveyed placed moderate to high importance on alternative production practices of food,” said lead author, Jennifer E. Pelletier, M.P.H. “And no differences were found by race/ethnicity or socioeconomic status in this sample.”
Women, young people aged 25 years and older, vegetarians, and those living outside their parent/family home reported placing the highest importance on alternative production practices.
Compared to those who placed low importance on these practices, those who placed high importance on alternative production practices also consumed:
- 1.3 more servings of fruits and vegetables
- More dietary fiber, fewer added sugars and less fat
- Breakfast approximately 1 more day per week
- Fast food half as often
The study’s findings suggest that nutrition-focused messaging around social and environmental implications of food production practices can be well received by this age group.
“Registered dietitians and other nutrition educators should start incorporating these topics into health-promotion efforts or college health courses,” suggests Pelletier. “We have an opportunity to encourage healthy eating without talking about nutrition directly, but rather by emphasizing alternative production practices to improve overall dietary quality.”
The lead author, Jennifer E. Pelletier, M.P.H., who is pursuing her Ph.D. at the University of Minnesota School of Public Health, partnered with Epidemiology & Community Health researchers Melissa N. Laska, Ph.D., R.D., Dianne Neumark-Sztainer, Ph.D., M.P.H., and Mary Story, Ph.D., R.D. The study appears in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.