When you see "teenagers" and "nutrition" in the same sentence, it usually means that a new report has denounced the kids' dreadful diets. The news regarding young adults' eating habits is seldom much better. Nor are these stereotypes divorced from reality, as is confirmed by a BuzzBack Market Research poll of 13-24-year-olds.
It's not that young folks are philosophically opposed to eating prudently. When asked to cite (from a menu of choices) the things they do to stay healthy, a majority picked "eat healthy foods and drinks" (58 percent). Fifty percent picked "eat in moderation/portion control" as one of their ways of staying healthy; 44 percent chose "avoid unhealthy foods and drinks." However, other responses leave us to wonder how good young people are at putting these sentiments into practice. One section of the survey asked, "What types of healthy foods and drinks do you typically consume?" None of the choices on the list drew landslide responses. Forty-five percent said they typically eat vegetables, 41 percent cited fruits and 12 percent claimed to be regular eaters of salad. Milk/dairy products were mentioned by 16 percent and fruit juice by 17 percent. When given a choice of snack items and asked to pick the one they consider a "must have," a plurality (24 percent) chose chips. Eleven percent of female respondents chose fruits, but just 3 percent of males did so. Soda was the top "must have" beverage, picked by 36 percent of those polled. Fruit juice got 7 percent of the vote, putting it on a par with coffee and tea/iced tea (8 percent each). Just 22 percent said they "always" read the nutrition labels on packaged foods and beverages, with 32 percent saying they "usually" do. Twenty-seven percent said they "sometimes" read them, which likely means they read the labels as often as they read Shakespeare. A more candid 15 percent answered "rarely," and 5 percent said "never." When teens and young adults do consult the labels, total fat and total calories are the things they care most about.
One predictable consequence of their nutritional lapses is that many young folks lack the physical vigor one typically associates with youth. Thirty-three percent described themselves as extremely or very energetic. Forty-nine percent said they're merely somewhat energetic, while 14 percent said they're slightly so and 4 percent said they're not energetic at all. That's consistent with the answers to a broader question about how healthy the respondents feel themselves to be. The breakdown: 6 percent extremely, 33 percent very, 48 percent somewhat, 9 percent slightly and 3 percent not at all healthy.