Research Finds Teenage Girls Carrying The Weight Of Poor Food Choices

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5th November 2009, 01:39pm - Views: 1115

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Research Finds Teenage Girls Carrying the Weight

of Poor Food Choices

National research findings show that girls aged nine to 13 years of age are the most

overweight age group among Australian children and the physical activity level for girls 12

years and older is consistent with following a sedentary lifestyle. The key issues appear to be

that some of these teenage girls are not making the best food choices to suit their changing

nutritional needs and many are involved in limited physical activity —so their waistlines are

suffering the results. 

Professor Lynne Cobiac from Flinders University in Adelaide reported these results following a

review and analysis of the 2007 Australian National Children's Nutrition and Physical Activity

Survey. She hopes that by gaining a better understanding of the food choices and eating habits

of the age group, some relationships between food, weight status and physical activity levels

can be identified.  

Professor Cobiac found that from about nine years onwards when children start to make their

own food choices, two distinct eating patterns can be identified. This is despite the fact that

most children eat three meals and two snacks on an average day.

“Understanding what types of foods are eaten by girls in this age group is important because

their requirements for nutrients such as iron, zinc and calcium are increased to help support

their bodies through the adolescent growth spurt and the onset of menstruation.  What we

found were distinct differences in the types and amount of food commonly consumed by the

girls in this age group,” explained Professor Cobiac. 

Two dietary patterns she identified are best described as ‘meat, fruit and vegetable’ and

snacks, no meat and vegetable’.

Girls following the ‘meat, fruit and vegetable’ dietary pattern tended to eat a greater variety of

vegetables as vegetables appeared to accompany various types of meats, particularly at dinner

time. The most popular meat choices were red meat followed by chicken. These girls were

more likely to eat healthy food choices such as fruit, wholegrain breads and low fat yoghurt

throughout the day.

“We found that the ‘meat, fruit and vegetable’ pattern in the girls aged 9-16 years of age was

associated with a lower BMI and a higher zinc intake. The girls following this type of pattern

also were less likely to have takeaway foods, including fried potato chips,” said Professor


Those eating the ‘snacks, no meat and vegetable’ dietary pattern appeared to be eating

smaller lighter meals throughout the day, characterised by more cereal dishes and low sugar

breakfast cereals. Girls following this particular pattern tended to consume nuts and seeds as

well as sugar-containing food choices, such as carbonated sugar beverages and sweet biscuits

along with a mixture of whole fat and lower fat dairy products.  

“The ‘snacks, no meat and vegetable’ pattern was linked with higher energy intakes. 

The research suggests girls aged 9 to 16 years should be encouraged to choose a variety of

foods that provide plenty of iron, zinc and calcium. Meats provide easily bio-available iron and

zinc and appear to be associated with intakes of both fruits and vegetables and lower fat food

sources of calcium. 

For more information or to organise an interview, please contact Rosemary Biggs at

Hausmann Communications on (02) 8353 5736 / 0415 319 862 or

Issued on behalf of Meat & Livestock Australia

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