‘Parents need to set good example on healthy eating’

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UBD study on schoolchildren’s eating habits

SOME primary schoolchildren in Brunei prefer to eat junk food despite knowing its harmful effects and lack of nutritional value, according to a study conducted by Universiti Brunei Darussalam (UBD).

Dr Nik Ani Afiqah Hj Mohamad Tuah, lecturer at the Pengiran Anak Puteri Rashidah Sa’adatul Bolkiah Institute of Health Sciences (PAPRSB IHS) of UBD, told The Brunei Times that while schoolchildren have good nutritional knowledge and know the concept of ‘healthy eating’, most still prefer junk food over healthier options such as fruits and vegetables.

The study was conducted by a UBD PhD student, Siti Tajidah Abdul Talip, on 18 Bruneian primary schoolchildren to find out their perceptions, practices and attitudes towards healthy eating.

The study also involved 12 parents and 10 educators from two schools in the Brunei-Muara district.

“These children know very well that junk foods like chocolate, instant noodles and pizza are bad, but they still prefer eating them,” said Dr Nik, who supervised Siti Tajidah in her study.

Dr Nik added that the primary schoolchildren were unable to resist the unhealthy food despite knowing their poor nutritional value, noting that they perceived healthy food such as vegetables as unpleasant and bland, making it less favourable option for consumption.

She said the study also found that working parents preferred feeding their children instant meals as they were easier to prepare, while teachers reported that even with the availability of fresh-cut fruits in schools, they were often seen as undesirable to the students.

She attributed the children’s urge to eat unhealthy food to their poor eating habits at home.

“Modelling is very important for children. If they (children) learn that the models (parents) aren’t consuming healthy food, then they will follow, and many studies show that children learn as early as when they are in the womb.”

Dr Nik added that the way parents talk about food, cook meals and eat are the most important influence of developing healthy eating habits on a child, adding that as role models, parents need to demonstrate a healthy attitude toward food so their children do too.

“Children will pick up their parents’ eating habits as they become adults. They spend eight hours in school and the rest at home, so parents should take that time to educate their kids by being good role models,” she said.

Poor eating habits and inadequate intake of vegetables and fruits can also lead to a child being overweight and obese, said Dr Nik.

According to a World Health Organisation (WHO) study conducted in 2014, 17 per cent of teenagers in Brunei were found to be suffering from weight-related problems.

The Brunei Times